By: Trevor Chartrand
The second feature film from writer-director Lili Horvát, Preparations to be Together for an Unknown Period of Time is a strange romantic drama that’s difficult to connect with. If that title seems long and complicated to you, wait until you see the movie. Even for a film that’s barely longer than 90 minutes, this picture is an absolute slog to sit through.
The film centres on the idealistic, perhaps naive, neurosurgeon Vizy Márta (Natasa Stork), who begins the movie disappointed that a chance romantic encounter has eluded her. Having met a fellow doctor (Viktor Bodó) at a conference months earlier, the two had agreed to meet again on a specific bridge, at a specific time, on a specific day; but alas, he’s a no-show. Instead of moving on with her life, Márta decides to track him down. Moving to a different country, she begins working in the same hospital as her would-be lover. When she confronts him about missing their date, he appears to have no recollection of ever meeting her – this interaction inspires Márta to begin questioning her own sanity, leaving her wondering whether or not their first meeting ever happened to begin with.
Severely lacking in believable characters, this otherwise inaccessible film might appeal to the hopeless romantics out there, but even that seems unlikely. Admittedly, this particular brand of character motivation is not usually in my personal taste, that is, it’s difficult to relate to a protagonist who is such an over-the-top romantic. It gets to the point where this character has abandoned logic and reason altogether in pursuit of her disinterested suitor. I find it hard to believe that Márta, this gifted neurosurgeon and acclaimed woman of science, could have such a disillusioned brain. The premise alone is thin and uninteresting, much like the rest of the film.
Also dragging the film down is a very subdued, Ambien-fueled performance from Stork, who walks through the film as if in some kind of disconnected trance or stupor. There is no charisma or attempt at charm made on the actor’s part; she essentially sleepwalks through the film’s entire runtime. This appears to be a conscious directorial decision, and it’s definitely the wrong choice. In a movie that has so little going for it already, a boring performance doesn’t add any interesting flavor or excitement.
To its credit the film does look nice – though that’s not saying much when there’s little-to-no engagement with the material. There’s also a not-so-successful attempt in the film to delve into the surreal, with some clunky and obvious cinematic flourishes. Unfortunately, the creative visuals cannot undo the film’s preposterously slow pace and lack of subject matter. There’s nothing at stake for an audience to latch onto (not even the love-triangle fake-out with another patient’s son – a subplot that goes nowhere). Lacking accessibility, Preparations to be Together for an Unknown Period of Time is essentially a dud.
Ultimately, this is a film that will fail to grab an audience’s attention, let alone hold it, and is not unrecommended as a result. Simply put, there’s just not enough here for a viewer to invest in or care about, making for a mundane and lacking viewing experience.
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Trevor Chartrand: @OhHaiTrebor