NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN (?niegu ju? nigdy nie b?dzie)
Kino Lorber
Reviewed for & linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Malgorzata Szumowska. Co-director: Michal Englert
Writer: Michal Englert, Malgorzata Szumowska
Cast: Alec Utgoff, Maja Ostaszewska, Agata Kulesza Weronika Rosati, Katarzyna Figura,Andrzej Chyra, Lukasz Simlat
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 7/16/21
Opens: July 30, 2021

A film that can be embraced by lovers of mysterious drama like those of Ingmar Bergman or of the penetrating insights of a Piers Paolo Pasolini, “Never Gonna Snow Again” is open to several interpretations, focusing on a man with seeming superhero powers yet one who machinations are altogether believable. The film is directed by Kraków-born Malgorzata Szumowska, whose “Mug” (Twarz) takes on an identity problem of a man with a face transplant, and “Body” (Cialo), about an attorney seeking help for his anorectic daughter. Zhenia (Alec Utgoff) is at the film’s center, a Russian-speaking Ukrainian who carries a bed around from one client to another, settling into weeks tending to a group of rich men and women in a gated community, all of whom are sad and longing. There is little question that with his magic hands and piercing eyes, Zhenia can touch the souls and bodies alike, providing at least temporary respite for the folks whose money can buy at least that.

The film’s mysterious atmosphere comes to life in the beginning, as Zhenia, an outsider seeking a residence permit from a no-nonsense bureaucrat wary of “the other” is put into a trance by Zhenia, who signs and stamps the paper himself. From there, he meets folks who can easily pay for his services, entranced by his easy way, his hands that heal, his eyes that look into the souls of the Polish people.

Zhenia is no Brad Pitt and hardly a Matthew McConaughey, but the sad, lonely, often backbiting women he deals with seem ready to hire him for a year or more, a full-time therapist who can make them feel human and wanted at least while he is manipulating their feet, their backs, their necks. There are some clues to his identity. When he was seven a living near the Chernobyl nuclear plant, the explosion, whose radiation killed his mother, may have granted him supernumerary powers. Or judging by the gold cross around his neck, he embodies a Christian savior. Audience member who are more literal may be guessing that his hands deliver succor via pranotherapy, a technique similar to that used in Reikian therapy fashionable in the U.S. during the sixties and seventies.

The one man he treats (Lukasz Simlat) has cancer and like Steve Jobs believes he can be cured by herbs, fooling himself like others in the community who may never lose the belief that all will be well: just have patience. Some humor comes through with the owner of a group of bulldogs (Katarezyna Figura), who asks Zhenia to massage one of her low-energy pets, which he had never done before but just cannot say no. One small girl, a spoiled brat if ever there was one, demands that her mother get up from the massage table to make her juice and give her an iPad. Her mother hesitates: daughter spits in her face.

In the concluding moments after a presentation of children who attend a French school, he performs a magic act, disappearing from the stage perhaps for good just as easily as did the Phantom of the Opera when chased by authorities. Michal Englert’s photography casts its own spell on Zhenia’s face in a film that finds director Szumowska pushing her boundaries with each new film.

113 minutes. © 2021 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting – B+
Technical – B
Overall – B

By Harvey Karten

Harvey Karten is the founder of the The New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO) an organization composed of Internet film critics based in New York City. The group meets once a year, in December, for voting on its annual NYFCO Awards.

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