A child custody battle in Strange Heaven, a Polish/Swedish drama in the London Kinoteka Polish Film Festival.
Basia (Agnieszka Grochowska) and Marek (Bartolomiej Topa) are a Polish couple living in Sweden, with their seven-year-old daughter Ursula, or Ula for short (Barbara Kubiak). Ula goes to school locally and, unlike her parents, can speak Swedish. However, her teachers begin to worry about her behaviour and a misunderstanding leads to Ula being taken away and placed with foster parents. Basia and Marek are determined to regain custody.
Strange Heaven (Obce niebo) is a Polish/Swedish coproduction, with dialogue in both languages with English used as a lingua franca when characters of each nationality speak to each other. Cowritten by Dariusz Gajewksi and Michał Godzic and directed by Gajewski (who is, offscreen, married to his lead actress), the film is well enough made. It’s certainly very well acted by its cast, particularly by Grochowska (in a very different role to that in last year’s Kinoteka Festival opener Foreign Body) and Kubiak (in her cinema debut). Grochowska won Best Actress for Strange Heaven at the 2015 Gdynia Film Festival. It’s also good to see Ingmar Bergman regular Ewa Fröling in a major role. Basia and Marek are played and written with sufficient shades of grey to prevent the outcome being too much of a foregone conclusion. But it’s hard to avoid the sense that you’ve seen this kind of drama many times before, and there’s little in it to lift it out of the ordinary.
Strange Heaven shows on 9 April at 2.00pm at the Regent Street Cinema, London, as part of the 14th Kinoteka Polish Film Festival. Further UK showings and distribution to be confirmed.
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