Would it be cynical to note that the local screenings of Bohdan Sláma's (The Country Teacher) latest feature Four Suns are scheduled to arrive just in time for Father's Day? While the movie certainly doesn't belong to any of the genres (action flicks & westerns among them) usually marketed alongside the holiday, one could easily point to it as a meditation on fatherhood or, more accurately, how to completely mishandle that role.
Fogi (Jaroslav Plesi) is a man in his late 30s with a wife and two kids. Despite his family obligations, he continues to party without purpose, ignoring the passage of time. His eldest son Véna (Marek Sácha) is running wild, causing Fogi to worry that his willful case of puer aeternus has set a poor example for his kid; he's right, of course. Meanwhile, Fogi's long suffering wife Jana (Anna Geislerová) is finding her affections tested by her husband's chronic irresponsible nature.
While this Czech import plays out very much in the standard indie family drama mode, it does quite a few things well, exploring Fogi's existential crisis through his connections to others. There's also a quirky and unexpected metaphysical component added to the tale involving stones, trees and the quest for a "master" that adds a lot to the proceedings even if it's hard to take it all that seriously.
Traveling a well-worn path, Four Sons is a well-acted, finely produced film that doesn't offer much new in the realm of family dramas but still manages to tells a compelling story. It comes across like the hybrid, love child of the early films of Miguel Arteta if they settled down with a slightly lighter version of Mike Leigh's output. All in all, a very pleasant, if not earth-shattering, film.
Four Suns screens at the NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium (in the Portland Art Museum) as a part of their New Czech Cinema series on Saturday, June 16th at 7pm and Tuesday, June 19th at 7pm. More info available here.
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