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  • Writer's pictureBen Turner

You Can't Escape Lithuania **

Starring: Denisas Kolomyckis, Irina Lavrinovic, Adrian Escobar

Director: Romas Zabarauskas

To all intents and purpose, Lithuania looks like quite a nice place if this film is to be believed. Its sinister title suggests that maybe it’s about oppressive family ties, emigration or even nationhood… but no. Really, it’s about a glamorous movie star and a gay filmmaker on the run from the police. Which has little to do with borders, nationality or even, really, Lithuania.

Denisas Kolomyckis plays Romas Zabaraukas, a Lithuanian experimental gay filmmaker… (Incidentally, the actual director’s name is Roman Zabaukas – do you see where this is going?) Critically acclaimed but struggling to make a profit, he recently went to Mexico to screen his film and came home with a boyfriend, Carlos (Escobar), with whom he can only communicate in English. In the early stages of their relationship, their honeymoon period is smashed upon the arrival of Roman’s friend and collaborator Indre, a famous movie star from Moscow. Shaken and upset, she reveals that she has argued with and then killed her mother. Rather than report her to the authorities, Roman decides that they should flee Lithuania and head for Portugal, where Indre would not be recognised. Dragging Carlos along, who has no clue what is happening, the three embark on a roadtrip together while Roman begins to shoot a documentary as they travel.

Initially, the drama of Indre’s revelation is engaging enough to get you through the first half of the film, but the momentum does not carry through to the later scenes, which rely on the dynamic of the characters too much. For what is supposed to be a cat-and-mouse chase, there is far too much mouse and far too little cat, while the three of them squabble amongst themselves and feel like they can barely stand each other. With this in mind, it does make you question why Roman would agree to risk his life and career on someone he clearly dislikes, while Carlos barely tolerates either and seems only present as window-dressing, as they parade him around full-frontally nude at any given opportunity.

Roman’s continuing filmmaking as they travel becomes increasingly more of the narrative, building toward a frustrating final scene in which the film-within-a-film format is clearly intended to make us question the reality of what we have just watched. As a filmmaker myself who has tried and tested this exact same format, I know that it exists mostly to make up for a lack of substance elsewhere in the project, so the director has turned the story on its head to make the process the REAL story and the narrative just a FAKE story. Supposedly. It’s a cheap gimmick, no matter how much you dress it up with quirky cinematography, fancy camera trickery and constant shots of beefcake penis.

For a film about the movie industry, it is strikingly lacking in glamour. Indre doesn’t behave or look like a movie star, while Roman seems like an arrogant wunderkind with little evidence of his status as director. Carlos is about as glamorous as the movie gets, but his constant nudity is trashy glamour and not the earnest seriousness that the film is gunning for in all other areas. Essentially, this film would have worked a thousand times better if the characters were just normal people, if it wasn’t trying to make any kind of comment on fame and if it wasn’t seemingly autobiographical about its director in a vain attempt to make us wonder if it’s a true story. Which it clearly isn’t.

There are some nice shots of the Lithuanian countryside and it contains an entertaining scene when Roman encounters a policeman. For the most part it is atmospheric. There is some lovely music. But none of this can redeem a prestige piece that has only found a worldwide release due to Escobar’s ample cock.

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