P.S. -- Film Review

Technically creaky but ultimately engaging character drama.

A cranky repairman and his footloose and fancy-free brother are at the heart of this extremely modest Uzbek drama, "P.S," wherein simmering resentment, petty jealousy and the weight of familial duty make up the formula for domestic tragedy.

Though hampered by an obviously small budget, middling production values and some utter howlers in the subtitles, "P.S" could find life on the festival circuit, particularly those actively seeking voices from the former Soviet republics. An art house release is out of the question unless the producers can miraculously come up with a superior print.

Hamid (Nazim Tulyakhodjaev) lives in a rural village making a living as a popular television repairman (no flat screen LCDs here). His irresponsible younger brother, Hamdan (Mirmaksud Okhunov), is off teaching at university in the city, and it's something Hamid resents to no end. After nearly forcibly dragging Hamdan back to visit their mother one day (the forcible version comes later), Hamid is struck by lightning while fixing an antenna. A month later, he's a different man and may be on the verge of going out of his mind.

"P.S" is a character study that hinges on that most classic of dramatic devices, the brothers at opposite ends of the spectrum -- professional, economic, social or otherwise.                  

Hamid makes no secret of his scorn for Hamdan's directionless ways or the fact that he's saddled with the filial duties in the village. Until his near-death experience, he silently accepted it and more often than not, settled into the routine with resigned tolerance. Post-lightning, Hamid lets his true feelings out, and the bulk of the film involves him coming to the realization that he hates his life and the only way out of his dire straits is to kill his brother, or at least find a way to sabotage him.

Whether or not Hamid simply had an epiphany or is truly insane is never made clear, to the film's credit. Director Yalkin Tuychiev makes effective use of off-screen space from minute one, laying the foundation for Hamid's transformation later in the film. The constant chatter from outside the frame and characters routinely addressing others we can't see nicely blurs the line between fantasy and reality later in the story when Hamid is teetering on the precipice of sanity.

The ironic conclusion that has the tables between the brothers turned brings the film full circle -- literally and figuratively -- and simultaneously highlights just how strong Tulyakhodjaev and Okhunov were in their portrayals of Hamid and Hamdan.

Venue: Tokyo International Film Festival: Winds of Asia-Middle East
Sales: National Cinema Agency Uzbekkino
Production company: Filmstudio Uzbekfilm
Director-screenwriter: Yalkin Tuychiev
Director of Photography: Rustam Muratov
Production Designer: Akmal Saidov
Music: A. Karimov
Cast: Nazim Tulyakhodjaev, Mirmaksud Okhunov, Aziza Begmatova, Boir Holmirzaev, Alisher Otaboev
No rating, 85 minutes