Gromozeka is, in the words of my cohort, “very Russian.”
Gromozeka is, in the words of my other cohort, “odd.”

This odd, very Russian film is not for everyone. It’s probably not even for 75% of film-going patrons. There’s a plotline — kind of — but it’s comprised of a series of mostly disconnected vignettes. Some vignettes are poignant (a grown man being cradled by a frustrated prostitute), some endearing (a father and son sharing identical mannerisms when eating), some depressing (a man cramming barbituates into a bottle of bourbon). Quite a few are brief and almost pointless (a man ramming the back of his head once onto an elevator door, for instance).

But Gromozeka is, in my words, “a grower.”

Its atypical humor, which lies somewhere between awkward and black, is a rarity. Not quite laugh-out-loud funny (except to a select maniacal few), Gromozeka‘s brand of chuckle-under-your-breath, scoff-at-the-ridiculousness-of-it-all funny strikes people in vastly different ways. When one watches the film with a captive audience, its peculiarities quickly become apparent; few jokes in Gromozeka receive collective riotous laughter, but all jokes receive acknowledgement from at least a few individuals, with varying degrees of enthusiasm.

Much like a balding uncle who scratches himself at the dinner table or a childhood teddy bear that has begun to rot, Gromozeka is equally adorable and painful. Its storyline follows the lives of three middle-aged Russian men, all of whom are failing at life in some regard, either through work mishaps, health problems, family issues, or a combination of those factors. All three have difficulties dealing with the women in their lives; all three are humongous cowards who take the path of least resistance, to detrimental ends.

The tales would be unbearably depressing if not for director and screenwriter Vladimir Kott’s impressive grasp on life, careful attention to detail, slow pacing, and charming character development. As the film continues, one begins to warm up to all of its light-hearted quirks. Slight, weird jabs of humor keep one from pitying the main characters despite their difficult situations. With a keen eye and a flair for unconventional humor, Kott subtly reveals the beautiful humor sometimes found in man’s most downtrodden times.

Seen at Seattle International Film Festival 2011

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