Reviewed by: Chris Monroe
|Featuring:||Jiri Machacek, Natasa Burger, Jaroslav Dusek, Martin Huba, Petr Forman|
|Distributor:||Sony Pictures Classics|
What are the consequences of racial prejudice and false beliefs about the origin of races? Answer
a comedy that will make you cry, a drama that will make you laugh
Filmed in the Czech Republic and Australia.
“Up and Down” will take you back and forth between various story lines, turn characters inside out and take you round and round with a variety of issues until everyone and everything finds a way to come full circle by the end. Appearing as a movie you may usually side step, watching this production may prove to be more interesting than first expected.
The narrative begins with the accidental abandonment of a baby and the two criminals who discover the child. From here we peer into the lives of various people, such as Mila (Natasa Burger) and Franta (Jiri Machecek) who struggle with the fact that they cannot have a child. Another dilemma involves Martin (Petr Forman) deciding to visit his ill father, Oto (Jan Triska), and engross himself in the brokenness of his family—and meet his half-sister, Lenka (Kristyna Bokova) for the first time.
Part of Martin’s struggle is also with his mother, Vera (Emilia Horecka), who has lived alone for twenty years and holds nothing but resentment towards her husband who left her for a younger woman, Hanka (Ingrid Timkova). Eventually, the choices that each of the characters make in their situation leaves them in a state of being that is either up or down.
Throughout the film there are various instances where the f-word is used. The subject matter throughout is mature, such as broken marriages, kidnappings and some black market criminals, but the way most of these situations are dealt with is not objectionable. However, one scene at the end does involve a character working as a security guard for some prostitutes, and some nudity and sexual situations are shown.
The couple in this story that cannot have a child are very similar to the characters in “Raising Arizona” who find themselves in the same predicament. Franta works for law enforcement, but also has a criminal record. His wife, Mila, cannot conceive and is desperate to have a child—so much so that she is often tempted to steal someone else’s baby. But unlike all of the comedy and farce in “Raising Arizona,” there is more heartbreak in this situation. It is so much for the husband Franta that he scorns himself for the mistakes he has made and even declares, “There ain’t no God.” This is foolish, since Psalm 53:1 says, “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and their ways are vile; there is no one who does good.”
Another huge issue that surfaces many times throughout this story is that of racism. The child that Mila and Franta obtain (illegally) is the child of a gypsy, which they refer to as “black.” Since their country is predominantly white, some characters have a real difficulty with people of other races and make negative comments in this regard. Franta loses one of his friendships due to the racial background of the baby he is caring for. Fortunately, a stereotype of Eastern Europeans is broken in this movie when one of the characters we like proves to not be racist at all.
The way the characters and the storyline are handled seems to be inspired by the recent P.T. Anderson film “Magnolia” with its spin offs into various characters lives and in its treatment of them at the end. Each character is shown in their final state and we can infer if their life has taken a happy or sad turn. The production value is not the same, but the entire production does hold interest.
The acting, directing and cinematography and such are all done well. Nothing exceptional, but it’s all right. The best thing is the story and watching the choices the characters make. If you want something a little off the beaten path, without any Hollywood celebrities, “Up and Down” could be worth your movie-going time.
Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Moderate
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.