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ALL ALONE (Sam samcat)
by Diana Schnelle

Bobo Jelčić, Croatia | Netherlands | Serbia | Bosnia and Herzegovina | Montenegro

This Croatian drama tells the story of Marko, a recently divorced man fighting for more time with his young daughter. He’s living with his aunt and uncle, who are well-intended, but absolutely smothering him with non-stop advice about how to petition for a custody arrangement that’s more in his favor. Their house is constantly filled with food and people and smoking and conversation ­and family drama – and it’s overwhelmingly claustrophobic. But it’s nothing compared to the absurd bureaucratic hell Marko must navigate in order to push his petition through the system. At every turn, Marko faces frustration, conflicting information, and laborious paperwork, not to mention the government employees who seem completely unfazed by his increasingly desperate pleas for help in being allowed to spend more time with his daughter.

ALL ALONE is quintessentially Kafkaesque in how effectively it conveys Marko’s agitation and powerlessness. Much of it is filmed using close-up shots, which amplify the feelings of claustrophobia and alienation Marko experiences in homes and government offices. This also makes the movie hard to watch at times as the screen feels as if it’s about to burst from the tension. But the film is never depressing as director Bobo Jelčić is careful to balance Marko’s frustration and despair with humorous moments that both serve to release tension and remind us of how ridiculous we human creatures are. The times when Marko and his daughter do spend time together are little bursts of joy that penetrate his unhappy gloom, but also reveal how parents often feel compelled to show their young children how loved they are through gifts and special treats. Marko’s just like any parent trying to make the scant time with his daughter memorable – until it all goes off the rails in a way nobody could expect.