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March 7, 2008
San Jose Cinequest Film Festival 18
Czech Republic / UK
Czech / German
100 Minutes
Comedy / Drama
Jan Sverak

Very sweet and entertaining story. Much better than expected. This will probably turn out to be the slickest film at the festival this year. An aging schoolteacher, after losing his temper a 4th time, realizes that he's no longer happy teaching and tenders his resignation. However, he can't stand staying home all day, and sets about finding something to do. While sitting in a park, a group of retired men ask him to join their walking group, but he refuses. He doesn't want to be retired. He gets a job as a bike messenger but doesn't have the speed, balance, or ability to work the walkie talkie and after a crash, he decides to find another means of employment. Meanwhile, his wife fears that he's fallen out of love with her, or at the very least, out of lust. Would it be so bad to spend his days reading all those books he planned on while sitting next to her? He counters by saying that he's a "greeter of people" but in order for him to be happy to greet his wife at the end of the day, he first has to leave her in the morning. He can't stand watching his wife watch soap operas. "How can you watch that garbage?" "Have you ever ironed anything in your life?" she counters while working the iron.

Joseph also has a rich sexual fantasy life. Affairs are alluded to and any woman of seemingly any age and appearance is eligible for inclusion into his vast fantasy life. These fantasies often take place on trains.

While returning his empty beer bottles to the store, he sees that they need a new worker to help sort them and give out the vouchers to customers. He signs up. His window becomes a place where people can get advice, be asked about their day, enjoy some sort of interaction. He flirts with women of all ages, offers dating tips to his coworkers, foils the plot of a thief, and pretty much has a good life.

His fantasies grow richer as customers, including the idiotic girl in the belly shirt now find their way into his train fantasy. In one memorable scene, Joseph is wearing a heart monitor on his doctor's advice and everywhere he looks, beautiful women of all ages are walking through shafts of light in slow motion, exposing legs, lingerie,'s almost too much to take.

His daughter is lonely, his grandson cute, his wife impatient.

It is so hard to look away from the actor who plays Joseph, Zdenek Sverak, who was also in the terrific film KOLYA. He plays a smart, funny, curmudgeon perfectly. He is sweet to elderly people, respectful to men, loving to women, nice to his grandson. He's the uncle we all wish we had.



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