Real life rarely feels like a film. But it’s rarer still that a film really feels like life. That’s the thing about Radu Muntean’s enthralling drama – if it doesn’t seem particularly original, it’s only because you’d swear you’ve already lived this story yourself.
Boogie could scarcely be further removed from the grinding horrors of recent Romanian cinema, although fans of Cristian Mungiu’s 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days will recognise lead actress Anamaria Marinca. Bogdan ‘Boogie’ Ciocazanu is a prosperous furniture designer; part of the modern, middle-class world – networked, Wi-Fi’d, plugged in and switched on. He’s taking a break on the coast with his family when he runs into two old friends whose easy-looking life of drinking and women makes Boogie nostalgic for the old times, and at least a little bit resentful of the new. One long night later, Boogie has argued with his wife, been out with his mates and said and done a number of things he ought to regret.
And that’s about it. It’s the sort of film that, in other hands, you’d call a ‘marital drama’, and instinctively describe with words like ‘intimate’ or ‘claustrophobic’. But in truth it’s none of those things. And that’s because Muntean and his co-writers Razvan Radulescu and Alexandru Baciu have absolutely nailed the rhythms and cadences of real life. They haven’t dramatised marriage, they’ve simply exposed the truth of it on screen. And not a melodramatic ‘movie’ truth, just the honest observation that it can be damn hard work and occasionally we screw up.
Dragos Bucur is quietly charismatic as Boogie, a normal guy who makes mistakes but whose heart is, more-or-less, in the right place. The writers have a brilliantly sympathetic ear for the way he talks – how we express ourselves in silences, banalities and jokes, all of which can mask something else… Except when they don’t.
It’s an incredibly tricky thing to pull off, this slice-of-life drama, but Boogie isn’t some reductive navel gazer. Muntean’s camera toys with depth-of-field to suggest that there’s a world beyond the immediate gaze of Boogie and his friends, while he lightens the tone with the odd sly joke. And if the film does occasionally become frustrating, that’s no bad thing. It’s only because you want to grab Boogie and shake him – seeing your own faults and failings mirrored in his.
Romanian drama is on a roll, but it’s usually an emotional workout.
Surprisingly un-harrowing, but even more surprisingly engaging, honest and truthful.
Welcome proof that Romanian cinema isn’t all doom and gloom, even if this isn’t exactly a barrel of laughs.