Scarface-style story set in the dying days of communist Poland
Zyga (Jakub Gierszal) is a Polish teenager, yearning to establish himself in the adult world while his country breaks free from communism in the late 1980s. He finds his opportunity in the practise of ‘yuma’ – shoplifting from West German stores and redistributing the goods to the people of his village. The good times cannot last forever though: as Zyga’s Robin Hood complex starts to go to his head, some ex-military Soviet criminals show up, looking for their cut.
Yuma starts promisingly: Zyga’s early antics capture the excitement of breaking the law and getting away with it, and the mist-shrouded Polish countryside is beautifully shot by director of photography Tomasz Dobrowolski. The period details too are spot on – Zyga’s gang of thieves flaunt their wealth with shell suits, Adidas trainers and tacky gold jewellery, while blaring ‘Ice Ice Baby’ from the tape deck of their rusty orange Trabant. Zyga’s obsession with Western movies – the 1957 version of 3:10 to Yuma is nodded to in the title – is another neat flourish.
As Zyga’s excesses take hold though, so do the film’s. Director Piotr Mularuk sets more plates spinning than he can handle, and by the time the Russian gangsters, corrupt border guards, an East German refugee, a couple of love interests, a disapproving mother, a former friend-turned-cop and an incestuous auntie have been dealt with, the film buckles under its own weight, lurching to a safe, lazy conclusion. It’s a shame, because Yuma is trying so obviously to be the Slavic Scarface – and, for a good portion of the running time, it earns that title.
Selected release from Fri 31 Aug.