9:00 pm • Saturday, November 5, 2022 • State Theater • SPOILER ALERT: 3RD PARAGRAPH
I was pleasantly surprised by the warmth with which Czarna owca (Black Sheep) portrayed its characters. As a family drama and comedy film focusing on the secrets hidden by its characters and how those secrets threaten the destruction of their family, I didn’t expect the characters to be likeable. But even in light of their foibles and poor decisions, moments of humor and kindness help support themes of love and growth throughout the movie.
Czarna owca centers on Magda and Arek, a married couple celebrating their 25th anniversary; their son, Tomek (the movie’s narrator), and his girlfriend of five years, Asia; and their grandfather, an elderly man living with dementia. After an extended introduction of the characters and their existing relationships to one another, the plot begins when Magda comes out as lesbian to her family. From there, the family rapidly splits apart, each member coming to terms with their personal truths while finding ways to live apart. However, the movie focuses on how, even in their fractured form, the bonds that make the characters family still exist to support them in during their individual transformations.
While overall the film was a feel-good experience with several good laughs and a happy ending, there were moments of tropishness. I’m mostly thinking of when Tomek was hit by a car. It was so blatantly obvious what was about to happen, and the consequences were so few, I just had to take the scene in stride. It was like a punchline tacked on at the end, once all of the meaningful growth in the movie had already occurred. I also noticed that 90% of the funny moments in the movie were also included in the trailer, so I didn’t feel like I was getting an entirely original experience watching it for the first time. The plot and characters gave the jokes context, which made them more entertaining, but it was a little unfortunate that I already knew what was coming.
Additionally, I wasn’t sure what to make of the MAGA cap which showed up on one of Tomek’s co-YouTubers during the film. To be fair, Tomek’s friends were visiting the United States as tourists, so perhaps they saw the hat as a bit of tourist gear, or he was wearing it out of irony. And while the symbol of the MAGA cap elicits immediate, divisive reactions in the United States, I’m not sure what kind of connotation it would have in Poland. Whether intended positively or negatively, the hat did develop our understanding of Tomek’s character by demonstrating the kind of people he hangs out with. It let us question whether he is one of them, or something different–more mature–connecting closely with the themes of the movie.
Overall, I’m grateful that the Polish Student Organization was able to bring this movie to Ann Arbor for the night. It was a fun addition to my evening, and I appreciated the film’s statement that sometimes growing apart eventually lets your relationships become stronger.