A Polish-born, Berlin-based lawyer working on refugee cases is unexpectedly reunited with his long-lost father, in this luminous, black-and-white fourth feature from Urszula Antoniak.
Shot in luminous black and white, this poignant feature from Urszula Antoniak is distinguished in a number of ways. It tells a personal story set amidst the current European migrant crisis, it delves deeply into the dynamics of a father-son relationship, and it does both with a meticulous style marked by studied compositions and a distinct, deliberate rhythm. The film's Berlin setting also allows Antoniak to explore the idea of displacement that is so central to her film.
Beyond Words centres on a handsome young lawyer working for a firm that takes on refugee cases. Though he looks German and speaks the language fluently, Michael (Jakub Gierszal) is himself an immigrant, from Poland, who assimilated over the years. As he reflects on whether he wants to take on the refugee-status case of a Black poet, Michael's long-lost father — whom he has never seen and presumed was dead — arrives on his doorstep. Over the course of a weekend, the two make awkward attempts to establish some form of connection. Memories and false starts conflict with his father's need to communicate something essential to his son. What complicates matters even more is that the formality and "correctness" of Michael's mien is the antithesis of his father's rather ragged and disorganized personality. Antoniak does a magnificent job of probing the depths of this unexpected relationship.