I remember interviewing filmmaker Igor Drljaca in 2012 when his feature film debut Krivina was a selection at TIFF. Even though his slow-burning drama Krivina left me lukewarm, I walked away from our one-on-one with a movie goer’s gratification, knowing that Drljaca – with his confident opinions – was going to have an interesting career ahead of him.
The Waiting Room, Drljaca’s sophomore feature, transported me back to those same feelings. The semi-autobiographical story of a Yugoslavian actor (Jasmin Geljo) trying to pursue career goals in a new country featured the same methodical strokes the filmmaker is starting to hone in as his signature, and the elongated takes (especially in the final act) had me feeling the same restlessness I experienced throughout most of Krivina.
The Waiting Room does, however, edge out Krivina because there’s more to it. With his first feature, Drljaca waited until a midway checkpoint to give his film a distinctive voice. In the much more engaging The Waiting Room, the filmmaker is always presenting something to the audience. The points made about a performer’s fight against being pigeonholed and typecast based on ethnicity (our lead only receives auditions for rugged, violent roles) are dead-on. It’s why a scene where the actor is asked to incorporate his native language into an audition is so humorous and memorable – the instinctive behaviour feels real. The comments about performers trying to relive nostalgia are agonizingly precise as well.
The performances – big and small – littered throughout The Waiting Room are good, and Jasmin Geljo’s heartfelt leading presence makes for a commanding headliner. His recent Canadian Screen Award nomination for Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role was much deserved. However, once The Waiting Room is finished making all of its arguments and observations, the film isn’t ready to end – it doesn’t realize its run out of gas.
The Waiting Room is a step up for Igor Drljaca’s intriguing career. If he keeps soaring at this rate, he’ll be cranking out flawless films in no time.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie