Modris – It isn’t easy growing up, especially not in Latvia



Modris (Latvia/2014)

UK Release: 13th November at Leeds International Film Festival (UK Theatrical TBC)

Directed by Juris Kursietis

Brief Synopsis: Modris is a normal 17 year-old teenager looking for reason and adventure; he has a girlfriend and goes out with a few friends. However, things are not well in the home and Modris soon allows certain habits to take demanding effect. This is when he comes head to head with the Latvian justice system and things take a sudden turn for the worse.

Modris is a character that many teenagers will be able to relate to; he feels as if the world is out to get him, and therefore, he may as well be passive and miserable, for acting miserable is at least still a conscious barrier to the unjust society that awaits. Kristers Piksa is gripping in his career debut depiction of Modris as the misguided youth searching for freedom.

The films principle concern is that of the Latvian justice system. It is no surprise then, and no spoiler, to say that the film explores the tragic effects of this voracious law and order on Modris and many of his peers. The emotional response to this film is a broad numbing followed by spouts of gasping. Juris Kursietis directs his first feature with wonderful manipulation; he puts Modris in reckless shots followed by tender spots; the audience is never quite sure which way Modris is swinging. Our variable hearts are suddenly given stakes as the justice system takes effect mid-way and there lies the power of the films construction: the fine balancing of our moral compass.

The supporting cast is also strong and essential to the aesthetic of banality and suffering of the human condition on display in this worn-out city, which looks more like a derelict compound from a game level in Call of Duty. It is this conviction of time and place that allows the honesty and unadulterated representation to leap off the screen and reel us back in with it. The stock is captured without any fancy camera angles or rigging devices, without compulsive cutting or over-worked set pieces; it is, as they say, cinema that lives and breathes (or cinematic realism). I can only recommend that one explore more independent cinema, the talent is insurmountable and Eastern European cinema is a live place to begin.

4/5 stars


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