Screened as part of NZIFF 2001
This refreshingly modern and amusing look at the lives of a group of young people in Prague, hints at the style of polished Hollywood films like Cameron Crowe’s Singles, but has much more depth. It creates vivid characters, involving stories and a new look at chaotic lives of middle-class 20-somethings in post-Communist Eastern Europe. — Ray Murray, Philadelphia Festival of World Cinema, 2001
If you think that ‘millennial alienation comedies’ are an exclusively North American phenomena, think again, because David Ondříček’s look at the lives of a group of 20-something Czechs bouncing in and out of relationships fits the term perfectly. A huge hit in the Czech Republic, Loners was written by Petr Zelenka and, although it doesn’t have the surreal tone of Zelenka’s previous film, Buttoners, it happily confounds audience expectations at every turn while nailing the current Prague zeitgeist.
Robert is a hustler who works for a travel agency when he’s not putting the moves on bartender Vesna or pulling mean-spirited practical jokes on his friends. Robert’s friend Peter and his girlfriend Hanka have split and Hanka finds herself drawn to pseudo-philosophical stoner Jacob – that is until, on the eve of Hanka’s moving in with him, Jacob realizes that he’s already got a girlfriend. It seems she’s been away travelling and he just, well, forgot. Meanwhile an old ex of Hanka’s drops his wife and family to try and convince Hanka of his love for her while Hanka’s parents prepare for a visit from Japanese tourists determined to see how ‘average’ Czechs live.
Similar in structure to North American ensemble films like Short Cuts, but with a dry wit and complexity all its own, Loners manages to be both entertaining and surprising… Zelenka and Ondříček’s mix of situational and character-driven humour blends nicely with a smooth and kinetic visual style. Both principals will become regular contributors to world cinema, I’m sure. — Jack Vermee, Cinema Scope, Fall/00