Hello! How Are You? has makings of domestic hit
Screening in Romanian Days, the traditional domestic showcase of the Transylvania International Film Festival in Cluj-Napoca (May 28-June 6), Hello! How Are You? [+see also:
interview: Alexandru Maftei
film profile] won't win any of the section's awards, but has a great chance of pleasing audiences domestically and abroad. Alexandru Maftei's second feature is a simple, funny and warm romantic comedy, a very rare genre film in the long row of internationally praised but bleak, minimalist dramas of recent Romanian cinema.
Written by Lia Bugnar, Hello, How Are You? tells the story of Gabriela (an excellent Dana Voicu) and Gabriel (Ionel Mihailescu), who have been married for two decades but feel there is no love and desire left in their relationship. Helped by co-workers, they discover Internet chat rooms and each falls in love, after long talks, with a complete stranger, unaware that they have actually found one another. Their incredulous (and very sexually active) son Vladimir witnesses the obvious changes in his parents' behaviour and tries to cope (and make the best of the situation).
Bugnar's witty dialogue is aided by good acting, while Maftei finds an ingenious and very simple solution to show the protagonists' long discussions online, without forcing viewers to interminably stare at a computer monitor. More comedy is brought by supporting characters, like Gabriela's co-worker Toni (Ana Popescu), a feisty young woman with extreme love affairs; and Gabriel's colleagues, who will make audiences feel that all the romance and sex lacking in Romanian cinema is concentrated in Hello! How Are You?. Adrian Păduraru, the star of Confession of Love (1985), perhaps the most popular Romanian love story ever, is instantly recognizable as one of Gabriela's clients.
Without simply being a virtual quid pro quo comedy, the film also light-heartedly analyses long-time couples' boredom and lack of communication and finds time for teenagers' obsession with sex and the generation gap, which could attract viewers of all ages and both sexes. The oppressive score and an unfortunate small budget, obvious in exterior sequences and the spartan production design, could pass unnoticed thanks to almost continuous laughs, convincing emotional scenes and an unpredictable ending.
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