Good Hands



Head Kaed / Labas Rokas : Estonia/Latvia 2001 : Peeter Simm : 90 mins

This freewheeling slice of Baltic whimsy starts on the not-so-mean streets of Latvian capital Riga, where glam, no-nonsense blonde Margita (Rezija Kalnina) and her dowdy sister Evija (Leonarda Klavina) constitute a two-woman crime-wave, helping themselves to anything that isn’t nailed down. Unwelcome police attention sends Margita fleeing north to Estonia, where she tries to lie low in a small semi-rural factory town. But before long she’s adopted an orphaned kid who’s almost as light-fingered as she is, and the two of them move in with crotchety oldsters Lepik (Tonu Kark) and Adolf (Lembit Ulfsak), and Adolf’s cop son Arnold (Tiit Suuk).

“Things are pretty crazy here,” Margit tells her sister’s answer-phone, “all of them are like they’ve just come from the moon,” and Good Hands certainly doesn’t lack for local colour: everyone Margit meets has some weird foible or quirky tall-tale backstory. As the complicated subplots pile up it all becomes rather too much for director (and co-writer) Peeter Simm to keep straight. On the plus side, he’s selected an eclectic Baltic-jukebox of a soundtrack, showcasing the best of the region’s rock, pop and classical, and Uldis Jancis’ pin-sharp cinematography is never less than first rate. But this can’t stop the tone wavering uncertainly between sentiment, farce and tragedy, and the end product, while entertaining in a sub-Kaurismaki fashion, never quite justifies all the considerable energy expended.

19th March 2002
(seen on video 18th March)

by Neil Young
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