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  • Writer's pictureBen Turner

Elephant **

Starring: Jan Hrynkiewicz, Pawel Tomaszewski, Ewa Swibinska

Director: Kamil Krawczycki

Country: Poland

Bartek (Hrynkiewicz) owns a horse farm in the southern Polish countryside. He lives with his mother (Swibinska), who is battling with depression. When their neighbour dies, his estranged son Dawid (Tomaszewski) returns for the funeral. As Bartek becomes more and more intrigued with this reckless stranger’s free-spirited behaviour, he has to decide what’s more important, continuing the status quo or finding the truest version of himself.

This story of self-discovery in the countryside looks on paper very much like God’s Own Country, but because Bartek is more than happy to accept this side of himself and explore his sexuality without qualms, it feels like the stakes are much lower. We do hear the pressures of the outside world seeping in at times as the news reports the anti-LGBT+ legislation that’s rearing its head in rural Poland, but Bartek actually doesn’t seem to be that affected by it. After all, Dawid is exceptionally hunky.

Pawel Tomaszewski is magnetic on screen. Brutish, creative and compelling, you can absolutely understand how Dawid stirs an awakening inside his young neighbour. He is perfectly cast and a strong actor too, but his talents are wasted on a script that doesn’t seem to go anywhere at all. Yes, we see a budding romance emerge, but the circumstances around it are pretty pedestrian. The director tries really hard to create an environment of hostility, but you never really believe that there’s all that much that either of them need to worry about.

A film that tries to cast a romance against the backdrop of homophobia in rural Poland, this is a slow and uninteresting plod that’s improved only by the introduction of a fine young actor to the world.

UK Release: Out now on VOD, released by TLA Releasing on Dekkoo


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