Movie Review: Slovenia’s Oscar submitted drama, an old man remembers “Sanremo”

We meet him hitchhiking down a cobble-stoned street, then asking a young woman if he can borrow her bike. He just needs to go home and feed his dog.

“It’s just down here a little bit, on the left,” he says (in Slovenian with English subtitles). A woman relents and takes her husband’s bike to ride along and bring her bike back when the old man gets home.

But he can’t quite manage a bike any more, so he walks it. He keeps saying “Just down there.” He stops to take a little wade in the river.

That’s when the van shows up, uniformed staff tumble out and “Bruno” founds himself fetched. It’s back to his small town nursing home for Bruno (Sandi Pavlin).

“Sanremo,” Slovenia’s entry in the Best International Feature competition for the Academy Awards, is an understated essay on old age, the shrinking world and declining memory that comes with it.

Bruno forgets things, that he doesn’t live in his old house anymore, that his dog Rexy is long gone, that wife Stefanija passed away years ago. He walks off, from time to time, lost in a reverie or mistaken errand he remembers he needs to finish.

He says “I just arrived here today” when he strikes up a dinner conversation with the attractive woman (Silva Cusin) whom we’ve noticed loves standing under the sprinklers on the grounds of the timeworn but well-kept assisted living facility. Whatever they once were, each is somewhat lost in the mists of their minds.

But listen to Bruno light up when he talks about Sanremo, a festival he used to attend down on the Italian Riviera. It’s just that Dusa — we never hear her tell him her name — isn’t interested in the past. “What can you do? Each day is a new day.” So sure, talk about Sanremo.

“How do we get here? How do we get there?”

Not a lot happens in “Sanremo.” Themes and “plot” are as limited as this elderly couple’s horizons and expectations. But it’s a lovely character study in a minor key.

There’s a lot of forgetting and just the tiniest hint of remembering in this odd courtship. He asks to join her at dinner, gives his name and she doesn’t offer hers. He assume familiarities and she stops him short.

They’re together for art class, cutting up photos for collages, and exercise with the other residents, tossing a basketball around.

Bruno only tosses it to Dusa. Dusa only passes it back to Bruno.

And every now and then he wanders down the street, into the woods. Dusa’s wanderings are weather related. She’ll stand in the sprinklers or step out into the snow in her nightgown, heedless of whatever reasons one used to have for not doing that. Unprompted, she sings, softly and beautifully, tunes that he remembers.

One thing North American viewers will be struck by is the endless patience of the staff. Another might be the absence of TV and the preponderance of activities — piano recitals, a field trip to help pick grapes, for instance.

“Sanremo” is so thin on plot and incident as to flirt with tedium. But writer-director Miroslav Mandic (“I Act, I Am”) sets a tone that draws you in and makes you ponder the twilight years and what, aside from inertia, gives one the will to go on and the desire to get up in the morning.

We all have our bottom line.

And it asks the two most important questions that hang over every senior in assisted living and elder care, even if nobody really wants to know the answers.

“How do we get here? How do we get there?”

Rating: unrated

Cast: Sandi Pavlin, Silva Cusin, Mojca Funkl

Credits: Written and directed by Miroslav Mandic. A Film Movement+ release.

Running time: 1:29

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
This entry was posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news. Bookmark the permalink.