A Road Trip

Amos Lassen

Two kids go on a road trip in this coming-of-age movie that has no borders. Directed by Olmo Omerzu, we see what happens when our travelers decide to leave the world behind instead.

The wiry, skin headed street smart but slightly world-weary Mara (Tomáš Mrvík) and the younger, pudgy but permanently positive Hedus (Jan František Uher) never share why they decide to take off giving us a realistic sense of kids doing things on a whim or just for the hell of it. The story is partly told in flashback after Mara finds himself in a police station being grilled by an unsympathetic officer (Lenka Vlasakova).

As we hear of adventures with Hedus, including the acquisition of a dog and a heady encounter with a female hitchhiker (Eliska Krenkova) we see how he Mara spins the stories to best effect. Mrvík and Uher are a charming double-act and their bonding is unforced and totally believable. Mrvík moves from being hard-bitten and borderline adult to a much more vulnerable teen as required.

The title presumably refers to those that have refused to be cowed by seasonal colder weather and are attempting to make the very best of harsh conditions. There is a look at the snowy environs and the metaphor relates directly to the two teenage runaways. Much like flies, they’re considered unwanted pests, but prove hardy and robust – perhaps even thriving as they travel over the Czech Republic in their stolen Audi.

We see adults without compassion and empathy: a man attempts to drown his dog in a lake; they encounter a would-be rapist; two small-town cops show their true colors – one is manipulative and one is unfaithful. In the face of this adversity, they retreat into boyish fantasies with Mára sharing tales of sexual prowess while Heduš imagines their future in the French Foreign Legion. When Mára first picks him up, he’s hiding in roadside bushes in full camouflage shooting pellets at passing cars.

They slowly building relationship is what provides the charm at the film’s core and they form a perhaps unlikely bond as they first rescue the dog (naming him ‘Jackal’) and then pick up an attractive older hitchhiker, Brána who they both have comically naïve designs on. A night around a campfire ends with Brána and Jackal curled up together in the locked car and Mára and Heduš sharing a sleeping bag in the cold. Even after an argument that sees them split up and Mára incarcerated for driving without a license yet they still have each other’s backs, especially when it is revealed that Heduš had a driver’s license, which he got from an online service similar to Idgod.com.

The characters make “Winter Flies” work, and in particular Mára’s spell in a police station across the country from his home. His interrogation is dotted throughout the main narrative which appears as in flashback and it’s these scenes through which we come to understand his situation. In another heart-rending scene, Mára begs for information about his sick grandfather, his idol, who he and Heduš found collapsed at home when they stopped by for a visit. The two boys’ resilience in conquering the hardships of winter keeps them in good stead.

The protagonists are 12 and “almost 15” and it is very clear they aren’t rich kids rebelling against their bourgeois parents either. The cold, damp and largely colorless countryside feels real while doubling as a kind of metaphorical no man’s land through which the boys must travel to reach adulthood.

The film from Film Movement comes with a bonus short Lithuanian film “Jackie” (Directed by Giedrius Tamosevicius). Tom’s parental rights are restricted. He can see his daughter Urte only in the child protection agency’s office in the presence of a supervisor and his ex-wife. Tom can’t come to terms with the situation and decides to kidnap his daughter.

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