In Lithuanian director Egle Vertelyte’s feature debut, the owner of a struggling post-Soviet pig farm finds a surprising benefactor in a visiting American investor, whose “good” intentions upend the gentle rhythms of small-town life.
The first film from Lithuania to play the Festival in over 15 years, Egle Vertelyte's aptly named feature debut Miracle is a delightfully deadpan tragicomedy that announces the arrival of a bright new talent.
Middle-aged Irena lives a dreary life in a small, somnambulant Lithuanian town. Despised by her co-workers at the struggling post-Soviet pig farm she manages, childless Irena is also stuck toiling for her bumbling, alcoholic husband. She isn't a hit with the townspeople either, who resent the seemingly preferential treatment she received from the local housing authority.
Everything changes with the arrival of a boisterous American-Lithuanian stranger intent on buying the farm while pledging to make Lithuania great again. Despite arousing everyone's suspicions, Bernardas (Vyto Ruginis) brings the whole town to life, even timid, introverted Irena, who soon falls under his charismatic sway. Will this newfound vitality be the town's — and Irena's — saving grace... or its undoing?
Miracle recalls the cinema of Aki Kaurismäki through its style and tone, and in Egle Mikulionyte's lovably despondent lead performance as Irena, which channels Kaurismäki's muse Kati Outinen.
Similarly, Bernardas' guffawing, blustering similarity to Donald Trump adds to the film's humour. Well-crafted and carried on the wings of bittersweet melancholy by Emil Christov's cinematography (The Color of the Chameleon, TIFF '12), Vertelyte's film sticks close to themes of belonging, identity, and breaking away from history's determinist providence. Miracle is a cinematic wonder of simplicity that charms both heart and spirit.