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Up and Down

A Little Bit of Happy, A Little Bit of Sad

The new Czech film Up and Down is just that: both happy and sad. The movie contains great highs and great lows and packages it all together in a genuine and unique tale of several intersecting lives. An Indian baby boy is left behind in a smuggler's truck. A father is dying and asking for a second chance with his estranged son. A couple yearns for a child. A wife grapples with being abandoned for a younger woman. Two thieves make a living. Two smugglers try to right a wrong. You get the picture.

However, the most intriguing stories suffer at the hands of the other narratives. Which is the risk of interweaving different tales together; there is always one or two stories which are neglected and you can never delve too deep into any which one. Here, the story of semi-retired soccer hooligan Franta (scene-stealer Jiri Machacek) and his frail, desperate wife Mili (Natasa Burger, also great here) who yearns for a baby more than anything else in life have one of the most compelling stories and yet they never get enough screen time -- whereas, more than enough precious film is spent on the two bumbling petty thieves.

Up and Down tries to do too many things at once. There are too many storylines and too many themes. While director Jan Hrebejk does manage to tie the stories together, the themes of immigration, racism, loyalty, forgiveness and family get all mixed up with one another and none is fully addressed or explored.

However, the movie offers great, indelible scenes that include shots of a very enthusiastic soccer rally with neo-nazi elements, Martin's warm welcome home via the use of mechanical kitschy toys by his quirky yet ignorant mother Vera (Emilia Vasaryova) and Franta teaching his newfound infant son how to play soccer.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars