Love is ageless. This is the message behind Igor Mirkovic’s feature film debut, Night Boats. A tender film, beautifully if simply shot, it offers a diverse image of love. Acted with compassionate care, and written with a deft, at times poetic, hand, Night Boats is captivating. Unfortunately ambiguous by its conclusion, the tone remains in tact, offering a heartwarming story.
Helena and Jakov are the inhabitants of a retirement community. Having sold her house to help her son fund his move to Australia, Helena leads a fairly solitary life, content with the company of her quiet roommate. Jakov enters the scene, a moderately disgruntled ex-saxophone player. Having travelled the world playing his jazz, he’s a renegade romantic at heart. The two meet, and become fast friends, progressively falling deeply in love with one another. Conflicted over her new feelings for a man who is not her deceased husband, Helena treads lightly, like a bird carefully pecking seeds from a friendly hand. Jakov is fearless, and unabashedly infatuated with Helena. Together, they leave everything behind, and run off to Italy together with nary a penny to their names.
The pair acts like teenagers. Innocent in their infatuation, they still tread lightly, as the wisdom of age has taught them. Though it’s clear neither has felt this kind of emotion for some time, if at all, they are both weary in their own way.
Ana Karic provides us with a strong-willed, if fragile heroine. Clearly abandoned by an ungrateful son, she’s coping with neglect. Her performance is that of an intelligent, compassionate and delicate woman, rife with complex emotions, and conflicting desires. Karic paints a beautiful portrait of a troubled past, without being overt. Helena’s story, besides that of her son, is relatively ambiguous, lending an air of whimsy to the otherwise grounded story.
Radko Polic as Jakov is quite possibly my favourite romantic leading man this year. The Yugoslavian acting veteran is incredibly charming. Standoffish at the beginning, he very quickly succumbs to Helena’s charm. You can see him fall in love with her. The subtlety of the perfect yearning glance. A nuanced exhale when he wants nothing more than to kiss her and hold her. A hilarious double take at a stunning new hairdo. Polic’s reactions to Karic are beautifully executed. He’ll melt your heart.
The charisma and chemistry of Karic and Polic is undeniably the film’s strongest point. Their performances are remarkable, moving portrayals of sated loneliness. The plot, however, treads a little too close to ambiguity. Elements of their pasts seem to overlap, yet the characters had never met prior to this home. Polic’s Jakov is clearly ill, and with something gravely shocking judging by Helena’s reaction to the news, yet we’re never made aware of what’s wrong. Random characters that were present at the home seem to crop up along their journey, inexplicably recurring at the film’s closing. It winds up overcomplicating a simple, and lovely, film.
However, in spite of its vague difficulties, Night Boats still maintains itself as a touching film about last love. The invigorating power of romance oozes through every inch of celluloid, and we are given a truly beautiful film.
Night Boats had its Canadian premiere at the European Union Film Festival this past Sunday evening. The festival continues until next Wednesday, November 27th, with offerings from Poland, Latvia, Greece, and more. Screenings are free at The Royal Cinema.