'Our Everyday Life' ('Nasa svakodnevna prica'): Film Review

Courtesy of Almin Zrno/DOKUMENT Sarajevo
Home is where the heartache is in this conventional domestic drama.

A strife-torn Sarajevo family struggles with trauma and tragedy in Bosnia's official contender for the Academy Awards.

Submitted by Bosnia for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, Our Everyday Life is a bittersweet ensemble drama about a middle-class Sarajevo family struggling with universal worries over money, health and generational tension. But this is a specifically Bosnian story too, which means it also includes multiple references to the lingering scars of the Balkan wars and the bumpy transition to a post-Communist economy, a bathtub full of red peppers, and compulsory chain-smoking in almost every scene. Even if it does not move you to tears, it may well leave you gasping for fresh air.

Director Ines Tanovic is no relation to Bosnian Oscar-winner Danis, though they have worked together in the past. A former documentary maker, Tanovic previously contributed a mini-drama to the 2010 omnibus film Some Other Stories, which featured a similar setting and many of the same key cast members as Our Everyday Life. Her debut feature is partly autobiographical and has the finely sifted grain of lived experience, though its quotidian domestic themes and straight docu-drama treatment may prove too understated for a place on the Academy Awards shortlist. Either way, this subtle family saga is emphatically a festival-friendly work with very modest theatrical potential.

The family at the heart of the story is headed by bluff 60-something Muhamed Susic (Emir Hadzihafizbegovic), an old-school company boss on the verge of losing his job in a boardroom coup. Meanwhile, he grows ever more distant from his long-suffering wife Marija (Jasna Ornela Bery), partly because he does not share her sympathy for their 40-year-old slacker son Sasha (Uliks Fehmiu), a divorced and depressed war veteran now living back with his parents due to financial necessity. Missing from this picture is the couple's pregnant daughter Senada (Vedrana Seksan), who left Sarajevo to escape the war and never came home again, though she keeps in regular contact via Skype.

Into this quietly simmering psychodrama of Oedipal conflict and communication breakdown, Tanovic sets off a ticking time bomb of tension with a slow-reveal cancer diagnosis that shakes up the whole family. This fuels the two most intense scenes in the movie, including the pivotal pepper-filled showdown mentioned above, but thankfully mawkish melodrama is kept to a minimum. Instead, the spare screenplay gently nudges us towards the conventional conclusion that calm family unity is the best medicine in times of crisis. There's no place like home.

Sticking to mostly interior locations and static camera shots, and resisting music until the final credits, Tanovic's austere naturalism feels flat in places. There is a glibness in her final-act closure too, tying up all the emotional loose ends a little too neatly. But Our Everyday Life still wins you over with strong performances, especially considering fictional father and son Hadzihafizbegovic and Fehmiu are only six years apart in real life. Even if the dramatic material is routine, the delivery is heartfelt.

Production companies: Dokument Sarajevo
Cast: Uliks Fehmiu, Emir Hadzihafizbegovic, Jasna Ornela Bery, Maja Izbetbegovic, Vedrana Seksan, Marko Mandic, Boro Stjepanpovic
Director: Ines Tanovic
Producer: Alem Babic
Cinematographer: Erol Zubcevic
Editor: Redzinald Simek
Music: Halka
Sales company: Dokument Sarajevo
No rating, 89 minutes

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