Glory was selected as the Bulgarian entry for Best Foreign Language Film for the 90th Academy Awards show, which will take place in March next year. Although it ended up not being nominated, that is not to say that the film is of low quality; on the contrary, it explores the corruption of upper-class people and the strain that is placed on the working-class in a modern Bulgarian setting.
The lives of two different people very quickly begin to interweave. The first person that we take notice of is Tsanko Petrov (Stefan Denolyubov), a rather lonely railway trackman with a speech impediment. When Tsanko is working on the railway on a typical day and stumbles across a large stash of money, he makes the authorities aware of his discovery. With a bare minimum of dialogue, we are already aware that Tsanko has a good heart; anyone as poor as him would be very tempted to keep the money for themselves, but he refuses to let his financial struggles challenge his morality.
Shortly afterwards, we are introduced to the head of Public Relations at the Ministry of Transport, Julia Staykova (Margita Gosheva). She basically embodies everything that Tsanko is not; she's rich, manipulative and selfish, and also shows no reluctance in mocking Tsanko's difficulty with verbal communication. However, she is not cruel to the point where she becomes a cartoonish villain; the character is very much grounded in reality and has plans for her future, including attempts to conceive a child via IVF with her husband Valeri (Kitodar Todorov).
Tsanko is soon praised as a hero by the Ministry and receives a new digital watch from the Minister. However, Julia keeps hold of Tsanko's old watch, a Slava-brand watch that has his father's words engraved on it. Although the new watch works perfectly fine, it is the sentiment behind the old watch that causes Tsanko to feel displeased when Julia continuously avoids returning his old watch back to him. An item that we initially thought would be irrelevant ends up being an integral part of this story about injustice and social inequality.
While we have seen this type of story before and Glory does not add much that is new, it is particularly impressive that it manages to build dramatic tension in such an intelligent way. The characters don't feel like caricatures and are the exact type of people who could easily exist especially today, allowing the viewer to take the subject matter seriously. It also boasts a number of strong performances, most notably Stefan Denolyubov's portrayal of Tsanko. It is a very nuanced performance with the viewer never fully grasping what he is thinking. Tsanko seems like a acquiescent person who has always accepted his place in the world, but when something as personal as his watch comes into the picture, only then will he strike back against corrupt business people.
Maybe that says something about social inequality in general; do we tend to be more willing to fight against something immoral only if it effects us? Whatever the intentions of the filmmakers and writers were, Glory provides some interesting commentary about class inequalities against a Bulgarian backdrop, and leaves you with something to think about.