Bosnian documentarian Alen Drljević tries his luck at fiction filmmaking with Men Don’t Cry, which had its world premiere in the official competition of the 52nd Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, where it won the Europa Cinemas Label as Best European Film as well as the festival’s Special Jury Prize. In the film, a group of Yugoslav veterans, each representing a different country involved in the bloody conflict, undergo days of therapy at a remote mountain hotel.
Drljević is a war veteran himself, and told me he attended such therapy sessions; this eventually inspired him to make Men Don’t Cry. Indeed, the premise offers an irresistible starting point for a story allowing re-evaluations of what happened in the Balkans just over two decades ago, perhaps even settle unresolved issues through cinema, and do so through the voice of people who witnessed these tragic events first-hand, headed by Drljević himself. On a more general level, as the title suggests, Men Don’t Cry also reflects on themes of masculinity.
Men Don’t Cry especially revolves around the therapy sessions during which is men must re-enact a particularly traumatic experience from the war. These are also the most impactful scenes: the others, also chronicling the impact of these intense sessions, much less so: they are less real, far more constructed. There is also an over-reliance on exposition dialogue that is frankly hard to ignore; this together with the archetypal characters (this guy is a drunk, this guy is belligerent, this guy is childish, this guy is depressed, this guy is a cripple, etc.) and the predictable succession of scenes (one after another, here they fight, here they get drunk, here the hotel clerk reveals himself a shady character, here they bond over an unexpected tragic event, etc.) makes for an inconsistent level of interest.
Had Drljević not been so committed to a well-rounded story, Men Don’t Cry would surely have felt more real, concrete, albeit a little harder to digest. As it happens, while it does not lack moments of sheer intensity and drama, nor lacking moments that dig deep, it falls short of expectations due to its bland structure. – ★★
MUŠKARCI NE PLAČU || 2017, Bosnia and Herzegovina / Slovenia / Croatia / Germany || Drama || Directed by – Alen Drljević / Produced by – Damir Ibrahimović, Jasmila Žbanić / Written by – Alen Drljević, Zoran Solomun / Cinematography – Erol Zubčević / Edited by – Vladimir Gojun / Art director – Mirna Ler / Starring – Boris Isaković, Leon Lučev, Emir Hadžihafizbegović, Sebastian Cavazza, Ermin Bravo, Boris Ler, Ivo Gregurević, Izudin Bajrović / Running time: 98 mins.