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ADIFF Review - GLORY

A railroad worker's heroic act lands him a world of strife.






Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Kristina Grozeva, Petar Valchanov

Starring: Stefan Denolyubov, Margita Gosheva, Ana Bratoeva



The married Bulgarian directing duo of Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov scored a breakout international hit with their 2014 debut The Lesson. That movie explored the bureaucracy of post-communist Bulgaria with wit and determination, but was let down by a reliance on plot contrivances and crude narrative shorthand, a trend that frustratingly continues with Glory, the second installment of a proposed 'newspaper clippings' trilogy.


Like The Lesson, Glory is again inspired by a Bulgarian news story, that of a railroad worker who discovered a considerable sum of money while working the line, and immediately handed it over to the authorities. Grozeva and Valchanov reimagine the man involved as the mentally challenged Tsanko (Stefan Denolyubov), whose honesty is exploited by Julia (Margita Gosheva), head of PR for the Ministry of Transport, which is currently involved in a corruption scandal.

Julia arranges a ceremony to celebrate Tsanko's heroic deed, at which he is presented with a cheap digital watch as a reward for his actions. While he receives his meagre gift, Julia holds onto his own watch, featuring an engraving from his father, promising to return it after the ceremony. However, when she leaves early, Tsanko is left without his family heirloom and finds himself forced to contend with a frustrating level of bureaucracy over the coming days as he attempts to retrieve the timepiece.


Glory has much in common with Sidney Lumet's Network, as Tsanko goes from media Godsend to PR disaster, with Gosheva outstanding in the Faye Dunaway role. At its best it's a blackly hilarious takedown of the corruption, greed and heartlessness of a society embracing capitalism in its infancy. You won't know whether to laugh or cry as you watch Tsanko's crusade to fetch a small item that means the world to him but is seen as nothing more than an irritant by Julia. In parts it plays like a particularly scathing episode of The Office - a scene involving a trousers snafu is a comic highlight - but one that's imploring you to get angry at what you're watching.

Unfortunately much of the film's impact is lessened by Grozeva and Valchanov's insistence on employing primitive characterisation. Tsanko's rendering as a mentally challenged manchild who loves his rabbits feels exploitative and patronising, while Julia's obsession with her career is posited as a negative, as she ignores her embryo treatment injections while caught up in her work. That 'career woman' is still cinematic shorthand for 'cold-hearted bitch' in 2017 is maddening.


That said, there's enough compelling drama in Glory to make it a recommend, and the performance of Gosheva alone makes it a must see. Displaying a command of the English language in the post ADIFF screening Q+A, Gosheva was modest when asked about her ambitions beyond Bulgarian cinema, but on the strength of her work in The Lesson and Glory, I suspect the wider world will be seeing a lot more of her talent.

Glory played at the Audi Dublin International Film Festival. A UK/ROI release has yet to be announced.





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