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Luxembourg, Luxembourg: Film Review

A personal movie from Antonio Lukich, Luxembourg, Luxembourg is a sweet, moving film about present and absent familial ties.

In dedicating Luxembourg, Luxembourg to his own father, “with love to his secrets [and] lies”, it’s clear that this is a very personal film from writer/director Antonio Lukich. There’s a sentimental nature to it, but also a straightforwardness that comes with an understanding of the subject on an intimate level. It’s a film that is sweet and bittersweet in equal measure; it feels lived in and natural, with its comedy and pathos coming from simple human connection.

In 1998, twins Kolya and Vasya (played as youngsters by Adrian and Damian Suleiman) are always together, getting up to mischief in their small town of Lubny, Ukraine, and being rescued from said troublemaking by their father. But as adults in the present day, they’re very different. Firstly, they haven’t seen their dad much in the intervening decades. Secondly, Kolya (Amil Nasirov) works in ‘public transportation’ – he’s a bus driver, and not a very reliable one at that – and deals drugs, while Vasya (Ramil Nasirov) is a policeman, semi-happily married and completely fed up with his brother’s antics. But then Kolya receives a phone call from the Ukrainian Consulate in Luxembourg, with the rather grave message that their dad is in critical condition, and the brothers are forced to reconcile all their familial relationships as they prepare to say goodbye to their absentee father.

Lukich refers to his film as a ‘tragicomedy’, and it’s a rather apt description. The humour is soft and mostly centred around Kolya’s height – he has to sit on books for his passport photo and jump up so he can be seen over a garden fence –, but there’s a poignancy to the film that feels well balanced with those lighter moments. The final scene sees Vasya in the car, sombrely confronting his feelings on his dad, his twin and himself, and it manages not to feel inconsistent with the more upbeat moments from earlier in the film. It’s a tonal tightrope that Lukich navigates well and the film has a subtle naturalism to it that really emphasises how personal of a story it is.

loud and clear reviews Luxembourg, Luxembourg 2022 film venice festival movie
Luxembourg, Luxembourg (ForeFilms / Celluloid Dreams)

And while it’s ostensibly a film about the relationship between father and sons, Luxembourg, Luxembourg is more concerned with Kolya and Vasya themselves, dedicating only the last half hour or so of its runtime to their trip abroad. Kolya isn’t as brash as he wants to appear, evidenced by the way he passively cares for Lyudmyla Sachenko’s Larysa after his distraction at work causes her significant injury, and Vasya’s life isn’t as put together as it appears, as he fails to connect with his father in law, fights with his wife and gets passed over for promotion at work. Lukich understands that, in order to make the impact of the twins’ trip as meaningful for the audience as it is for them – and, by extension, the director himself – there needs to be an emotional investment in Kolya and Vasya, and the dedication to developing them as characters pays off as the film switches from comedy to poignancy and that emotional connection flourishes.

Luxembourg, Luxembourg is a film that navigates both aspects of its ‘tragicomedy’ nature well and feels extremely personal. There’s an energy and a spark to it that elevates it past its relatively simple premise, and it’s a poignant, funny story about the desperation for and disappointment of family life.

Luxembourg, Luxembourg premiered at the 2022 Venice Film Festival on September 7, 2022.

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