Winter Flies review – teen tearaways ride their luck with a smile

Olmo Omerzu steers this Czech road movie gently, teasing wonderfully natural performances from his young leads

Winter Flies’ two teen runaways, as they make a break across country in their hot-wired Audi, are prone to spontaneously breaking out in incredulous laughter; that’s the guiding spirit of this unforced, inquisitive and winningly optimistic Czech road movie. There’s a hint of unspecified family troubles in their rear-view mirror, but the underage drivers – blasé loverman Mará (Tomáš Mrvík) and rotund Heduš (Jan František Uher) – are more focused on heading anywhere-but-here.

Recounted in cross-cut flashback from the police station where Mará is being interrogated on his own (with Heduš’s fate unknown), the duo use the journey time to trade their obsessions: joining the Foreign Legion, sleeping-bag protocol, Mará’s supposed military hotshot granddad and, of course, getting laid. These kind of semi-delusional adolescent hobbyhorses could have ended up as a Superbad-style gag-fest, but Slovenian director Olmo Omerzu patiently teases out a subtler humour and pathos. Nuzzling tightly to the actors’ perspective, Omerzu in his third feature comes close to the kind of miraculous naturalness Hirokazu Kore-eda achieves in his films.

Mará proves to have a tender centre, something first relayed when he saves a dog from drowning. There’s an initial suggestion that he may be an unreliable narrator, and Mrvík, pink-cheeked but with a testy gaze, holds the screen with star conviction. But the film finally has no heart for any guile and remains beautifully sincere. In one sequence, Mará falls asleep at the wheel, and the car appears to be driving itself down a snow-streaked Czech highway, as if on the momentum of insolent bravado and the innocence of dreams.

• Available from 29 January via YourScreen.

• This article was amended on 8 February 2021 to correct the main image credit information.


Phil Hoad

The GuardianTramp

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