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Taurins Senior

Bickering father and son must contend with one another inside a crammed little flat, in this Latvian drama - live from the Baltic Competition of the 27th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival


When we first meet Gunars Taurins (Gundars Abolins), he has moved from Paris to Riga in order to look after his father Talis (Talivaldis Margévics) for a short period. Gunars is a dog-walker for the wealthy and powerful, who needs to return to his adopted home as soon as he finds a suitable caregiver for his father. And yet, it’s not until halfway through the film that we finally meet the first prospective candidate. The first half consists of the endlessly long scenes of the two men living together in a small flat broken apart by locked off camera shots of daily Latvian life which owe less to Kieslowski and more to redundant CCTV footage.

There is some promise at the beginning of the film. Point-of-view shots and fiery exchanges between the two leds give the film an air of rawness and spontaneity akin to British television series Peep Show (2003-2015). There is also an interesting moment of the father’s voiceover reminiscing about his brother. But ultimately these point-of-view shots and flights of fancy go nowhere.

The big problem with the film is tone. With the improvised scenes mixed with scripted moments and reinvented incidents from director Alexander Hahn’s own experiences with his ill father, the movie isn’t cohesive. It doesn’t know whether it wants to be funny or dramatic. The swings between the father and son are too large to be anything other than ill-fitting, and far from tragicomedy. Never is this more apparent than when Gunars is driving Talis to a local cemetery in order to visit the wife’s grave. Gunars has to pick up a friend en route, who has flown in from France, at an airport…oh, and the prospective caregiver needs to be picked up too.

During the drive to the airport we are left in limbo of whether we should be laughing at the bickering pair or feel sad for the father who seems so lost. In the end, the scene drags out for far too long. What happens to the prospective caregiver and the friend makes very little sense. This isn’t the only scene which goes on too long and doesn’t make us care nor sympathise with the two leads. Another such scene is when Gunars hires a sex worker to cheer up his father, but leaves the man in the bath while he interviews her.

Characters that are not fully developed and incoherent scenes make Taurins Senior feels very long at just 103 minutes.

Taurins Senior just premiered in the Baltic Competition of the 27th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival.

By Chris Simpson - 18-11-2023

Chris grew up in Bracknell and Slough, which explains 90% of his choices. To pay the bills he has worked as a waiter, a cinema projectionist, a shoe salesman, an attendant in an amusement arcade, hiri...

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