Life Feels Good (12th Kinoteka Polish Film Festival) Review
Life Feels Good (Chce się żyć, which my online Polish translator renders as He Wants to Live) tells its story, based on real life, as a circular flashback. We begin with Mateusz (Dawid Ogrodnik), a man in his thirties with cerebral palsy, coming up in front of an assessment board. He has been living in a home for the disabled ever since his mother became too old to care for him. Then we go back to his childhood in the later 80s, when he was thought to be mentally disabled as well as physically. His life has been a struggle to prove himself.
As with Daniel Day-Lewis's Christy Brown in My Left Food, Mateusz is played by an able-bodied actor, very convincingly. (Kamil Tkacz plays Mateusz as a child.) The film is not without humour but avoids undue sentimentality, as Mateusz is far from a saint. Life Feels Good does tackle the issue that its leading character has a (hetero) sexuality, something the other characters overlook at times: a woman changes her top and bra in front of him, and his brother wheels him into another room when he brings a girlfriend home. Mateusz is very much a breast man, at one point rating the women he sees for the attractiveness of their mammaries: cue for some subjective camera aimed down the front of their tops. Later, Mateusz does find girlfriends of his own.
The film is restrained in style, Pieprzyca often holding the camera back, to give room to his leading actor. He has a fondness for trompe l'oeil shot, with pairs of doorways, or pairs of windows, on either side of the Scope screen with a wall in between. Life Feels Good can't help but be affecting, the more so because it almost entirely avoids schmaltz. It also has an impressive lead performance from Ogrodnik, who had been the second-lead in the previous year's You Are God (Jestes Bogiem, which had a brief UK cinema release) and plays a featured role in Ida, which was in Polish cinemas at the same time as Life Feels Good.
Life Feels Good plays in London in the 12th Kinoteka Polish Film Festival. It will receive a UK cinema release from Project London Films.