Review: My Wonderful Life
by Ola Salwa
- The third feature by Łukasz Grzegorzek is a delight to watch, boasting an on-screen world that shimmers with melancholy, joy, anger and regret, all at once
The latest global Netflix release, My Wonderful Life [+see also:
interview: Łukasz Grzegorzek
film profile], is the third feature by Polish director Łukasz Grzegorzek, and it rightfully won him the Best Director Award at the Gdynia Film Festival last year (see the news). Grzegorzek’s trademark is making coming-of-age dramedies, with the age part varying from late teens to mid-life.
Jo (a delightful Agata Buzek), the protagonist of My Wonderful Life, teaches English in a small-town secondary school and is having a secret love affair with the father of one of her students. These clandestine meetings are full of fun, sex and marijuana smoke. So what’s the catch? Jo is in her late forties, is married, and lives with her husband, two sons, grandchild and mother (an Alzheimer sufferer), all under one roof. Her daily life is filled with noise, chaos and spats with pretty much everyone, and about everything. But that’s not all – someone knows about Jo’s extramarital relationship and is blackmailing her with a series of letters and compromising photos. So what about the coming-of-age part? Well, she will need to decide what kind of life she wants to live from now on.
However dark and twisted this may sound, My Wonderful Life is a delight to watch – every character in the film has their own quirks and agenda, and most of their fights are more amusing than dramatic, yet the film doesn’t drift into farce or pure comedy. Grzegorzek infuses the story with different nuances, so that the on-screen world shimmers with melancholy, joy, anger and regret, all at once. His films are often compared by local critics and audiences to American indies that thrive at festivals such as Sundance or SXSW, due to their lightness and free spirit. On top of that, Grzegorzek’s style has a strong Central European vibe and has a lot in common with the mood conjured up by Czech films – that sort of warm humour and peaceful coming to terms with the fact that life is not exactly as wonderful as was promised to us when we were growing up. Jo rebels against her lack of happiness and fulfilment in a rather discreet way: she simply manoeuvres around morals and rules, instead of trying to fight them head on, as many other characters in Polish films would do.
Grzegorzek wrote his script with Agata Buzek in mind, and her performance is just brilliant. She makes her character warm, funny, mysterious and, at the same time, very down to earth. Buzek also has great chemistry with the rest of the main cast: Jacek Braciak (her husband), Adam Woronowicz (her lover), Jakub Zając and Paweł Kruszelnicki (her sons), Wiktoria Wolańska (her daughter-in-law) and Małgorzata Zajączkowska (her mother). And so, evidently, this cool “band” with an awesome lead singer provides plenty of reasons to watch this film.
My Wonderful Life was produced by Poland’s Koskino and had its national theatrical premiere on 29 October last year.
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