An aspiring filmmaker tries to search for who he is against the backdrop of Latvian independence in this dark but dreamy coming-of-age story.
Vkiesturs Kairišs‘s new film January certainly makes you feel quite cold and bleak inside – it really lives up to its title. I know, that probably doesn’t sound like something you’d want to watch, but I mean what I said in a good way. The month of January is usually quite cold and bitter. But it is also one that is gleefully optimistic. The snow won’t be around forever, and the days will only get brighter from there on out.
This is basically the life of the film’s lead character Jazis, who is an aspiring filmmaker. Making a film is obviously not a walk in the park, and he knows this. But before he can even attempt to make a film, he must find out who he is. January chronicles his day-to-day life and the people he meets.
Along the way, he meets some genuinely friendly people, some more eccentric than others, and some who are the opposite. It’s an intricately detailed story, and the Latvian backdrop definitely feels lively in this film, but the huge problem here is that the film often struggles to maintain its initial interest.
I genuinely admire Kairišs’s efforts to make this film basically a coming-of-age film for adults – one that shows this depressed man’s daily life – but at times, the film simply gets boring as we essentially watch many scenes that play out far too similar to the previous ones.
There is only so much entertainment value in seeing somebody walking around, exploring a city and learning how to embrace who he is. The first act is by far the most interesting, as we are introduced to our two leads – Jazis and Anna – in subtle, intriguing ways. In general, the film is one of the most unconventional approaches to the coming-of-age genre I have ever seen.
By far one of the best elements to the film are the performances from Karlis Arnolds Avots and Alise Danovska, who have incredible chemistry together. Both of their characters find similarities in each other while also being quite different in many ways. It makes for a wonderful and always intriguing pairing.
Sadly, I wish I could say the entire film is as intriguing as its characters always are, but that’s not to say the film is bad because it’s not. There are some legitimately terrific elements to the film that I can’t praise enough, but there are also some things that really turned me off. It’s an admirable effort from the filmmakers, even if it doesn’t always stick the landing.
Viesturs Kairišs’s January is a coming-of-age story seeped in dread and populated by intriguing characters, even if the story isn’t always as interesting as it could have been.
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