“Give Me Liberty”: a feelgood movie as beautiful as it is boosted

“Give Me Liberty”: a feelgood movie as beautiful as it is boosted

A young paramedic of Russian origin is moved by everyone. Presented at the Directors’ Fortnight in May, a beautiful film that flies at a hundred miles an hour in the snowy night of Milwaukee.

by Kirill Mikhanovsky

A very beautiful film. The whimsical, passionate and breathless – apparently autobiographical – chronicle of a day in the daily and at the same time hectic life of Vic (the unknown Chris Galust – like many of the actors in the film, very good), a young man from Russian, intelligent but unsure of himself, who became an ambulance driver, or rather a medical bus driver while waiting… while waiting for what? Waiting to enter life.

Too nice, he lugs around all his patients (and possibly their furniture) and his relatives who constantly call on him (like his grandfather suffering from Alzheimer’s disease who rolls mechanics, cooks chickens in pans that are too small and smokes the whole apartment) wherever they have to go, with absolute affection, self-sacrifice and vexation: the members of the Russian-speaking community, completely nuts, at a funeral; mentally handicapped people at their school; his favorite patient, Tracy (also played by the formidable Lauren “Lolo” Spencer), a young black woman suffering from an atrophic illness for which he has serious feelings and whose family has also become a surrogate family for him.

Sweet and crazy characters

Give Me Freedom is teeming with sweeter characters, each one crazy than the other (like his mother, a lyrical singing teacher), losers, freaks, sick people, immigrants who landed in Milwaukee, probably because we didn’t want them elsewhere, with no hope of getting away from it other than through madness. And their attendance is good for the viewer, as it trains Vic for life. It is good because the humor obviously hides their distress which is stupidly ours.

The film flies at top speed, sparing rare sentimental and family breaks that are very moving and sweet. The film is full, overflowing with love and anguish (Tracy’s mother suffers from alcoholism), to suffocate, but also charming ideas of cinema (like the very beautiful scene where Vic teaches Tracy how to read a record 78 turns with a sewing needle and a paper cone), in a permanent movement where the viewer is constantly lost, between laughter and emotion, and where the characters appear and disappear like drunken ghosts in the snowy night of Wisconsin.

A beautiful filmmaker-poet-character is born, who likes to help people while always being a little afraid that they will invade his life – and he’s right, since that’s indeed what they do. We often think of Cassavetes, but also of a certain Romanian cinema, that of The Death of Dante Lazarescu by Cristi Puiu (2005), more speedy.

Give Me Liberty by Kirill Mikhanovsky (USA, 2019, 1h51), with Chris Galust, Lauren “Lolo” Spencer, Darya Ekamasova…

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