Guilt and indecision narrate a story of two young Polish students trying to come to terms with their own escalating problems in Lasting
), the latest film from Jacek Borcuch (All That I Love
). To appreciate how precious life really is, they must first stand face to face with sudden tragedy and important decisions that not only gradually lead them further into adulthood, but also force them to reinterpret the meaning of love completely anew.
The characters' journey starts in a place, which might very easily be called an idyll, undisturbed by any influences from the outside world and enriched by moments of pure sexual excitement aplenty. In Spain, because that's where they've decided to spend their summer vacations, Michal (Jakub Gierszal) and Karina (Magdalena Berus) take pleasure in late night drinks and sex both on the beach and in bed. They have plenty of time to strengthen their flourishing relationship built on trust, devotion and passion. But what separates them from most fun-loving youngsters is their dedication to work, which is actually more of a simple act of gratitude for Michal's Spanish family than conscious choice.
A tragic turn of events changes their lives forever. During his leisure time, Michal loves to ride an old-fashioned ('hipster' would be a proper word here) motorcycle and dive in a secluded lake, unaware that he is, in fact, trespassing on a private property. The owner, brute and lout that he is, realizes that he has an unwanted guest and starts bullying Michal to a point where his anger gets the best of him and drives the boy to cold-blooded murder. Trying to save the situation by performing CPR only makes things worse. Devastated and guilt-ridden, Michal soon makes a cowardly and intuitive decision to go back to Poland in order to forget about that horrible incident, a lamentable cry for help that no one hears.
Ironically, the past comes back to haunt him, in the form of a person he loves the most in the world. Unable to keep the dark secret, Michal immediately confesses his sin, to Magda's enormous consternation. But what she does next is unexpected and, as presented by the film's somewhat tendentious narration, actually more disappointing than Michal's deed. She walks away without a word in a crucial moment when all that Michal really needs is a quick yet sure reaffirmation that everything will be fine.
We soon learn that the reason why Magda can't bear to be close to a person she's still greatly in love with is more serious than expected. She's pregnant, and in her wretched state that sudden revelation only drags her deeper into depression. She questions her ability to become a mother at such a young age, but her decision is never revealed in what appears to be an ambiguous ending worthy of a true Sundance film (where it premiered this year).
Learning how to stand up to the harsh reality that surrounds them, the characters work on their relationship with a much more rational approach, basing most of their decisions on experience and prejudgment. What's missing in the plot, though, is Michal's struggle with guilt. Given that he just killed a man, his behavior seems strangely untroubled, hence rather unrealistic. He tries to convince Magda it was merely an accident, and his desire to win her love back is more visible than his feelings towards murder. Eventually, the storyline forgets what was the real purpose of that seemingly crucial scene and let's it sink into oblivion. This mistake gives the impression that Jacek Borcuch intended only to scratch the surface of a much bigger issue.
The main strength of Lasting is the gorgeous cinematography, which perfectly illustrates the mental state of the characters. Spain is full of beautiful colors, sun, and warmth, while Poland is darkly lit, grayish and cloudy. In Spain we admire picturesque wide shots of the countryside, while in Poland we're assaulted with lots of cramped spaces typical of a concrete jungle. The camera moves slowly but assertively and captures the tranquility that accompanies first love and its many troubles.
<em>Updated 12/07/13: Text lightly edited for usage and clarity.</em>
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