Movie review: Intense 'Loving' from Poland is a standout at Three Rivers Film Festival


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Maria and Tomek are a contemporary Polish power couple. She has an important job in promotion and development with the city council, and she's great at it. Handsome hubby Tomek is a successful architect, looking for more municipal contracts. They've got financial stability, a nifty new house, and they clearly love each other. She's pregnant -- very pregnant, in fact, just a few weeks from delivery. What could derail their happy train to a bright future?

Her powerful boss, the Mayor. He has been pestering her with emails and inappropriate text messages ("I wish it was my baby," says one). Lately, he seems to be more obsessed -- even openly, at parties -- and has now started stalking her. It's freaking her out.

'Loving'

Starring: Julia Kijowska, Marcin Dorocinski and Adam Woronowicz.

Rating: Contains adult themes and and subject matter.


"Can't you see he's hitting on me?" she complains one night to the sweetly attentive Tomek, but he laughs it off: "What's wrong with him finding you attractive? I sure do!"

A terrible encounter soon proves it was no laughing matter. Maria tries but fails to keep it a secret. The birth of her child is followed by far more stress and postpartum depression than usual. When Tomek inevitably discovers what happened, his wife -- and whole life -- seem to change. Suspicion, and the cancer called jealousy, take over. This couple and their marriage have been poisoned by a crime.

Based on an actual (much-publicized) case in the Polish city of Olszytn, "Loving" is a powerfully intense, unsentimental drama, thanks to a trio of wonderfully subtle performances. Julia Kijowska (Maria), Marcin Dorocinski (Tomek) and Adam Woronowicz (the slimy Mayor) convey their myriad mixed emotions more facially than verbally.

Praise the Lord for the bottomless well of fine Polish films -- arguably the best in Europe. Director Slawomir Fabicki (a 2002 Oscar nominee for best live-action short) endows this beautiful feature with perfect pacing in what seems almost like real time, together with superb cinematography and a certain rare stunning silence: No cheesy mood music need apply -- or to be found -- here!

It's not giving too much away to say that what could've been just another grim "blame the victim" cautionary tale ends on an uplifting eternal-maternal note of baptismal forgiveness: the taking away of original and unoriginal sin alike.

No mean achievement. No movie more worth seeing in this year's Three Rivers Film Festival.

In Polish with English subtitles. "Loving" screens at the Harris Theater 3:30 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday. It is co-presented with the Polish Cultural Council. Find full festival schedule and more information at www.3rff.com.

 


Post-Gazette film critic emeritus Barry Paris: parispg48@aol.com.

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