Peter is a teenage boy growing up in 1960s Yugoslavia. Like all boys, he's keen to get to know girls better, and is always searching for his one true love. His father however is constantly disapproving of the messes Peter gets into along the way, and is determined to see the boy shape up into a good Marxist like his father. As the year stretches on, and student protests spread across the world, the whole family begins to show its dysfunctional side, and it seems Peter may find true love after all...
Elusive Summer of 68 is a Yugoslavian coming of age story that delivers everything you'd expect and more. It's a delightful movie, warm and sweet, with a cheeky side to it.
The film manages to blend comedy and drama together very well, with the more sombre moments never ruining the overall mood, or making things too depressing.
A big element of the film is in its time period, and all the tumultuous things that were to happen in the Eastern Bloc during 1968, from the student protests, to the Prague Spring, and ultimately the Soviet invasion. The way its handled is nice and informative. You get a sense of the context and the history without it being clumsily forced down your throat.
Peter is a good lead. He's a naughty boy who could probably do with a good spanking, but never comes across as a legitimate pest (the library scene excluded!). He's always good-hearted, and his mishaps and misfortunes are often amusing, and occasionally you do feel for him.
A big part of Elusice Summer is Peter's various romances, as he looks for the girl of his dreams. Each time he thinks he's found her however something goes wrong, like the girl not being interested, to the parents disapproving, to the girl being too interested! All the while sweet Czech girl Ruzenka watches forlornly in the distance. These dalliances are always funny to watch, and I appreciated the variety in them. The most surprising one was the baker's fiancee, and how much she reciprocates Peter's advances! What follows has got to be every boy's dream, and it is the sexiest and funniest scene in the entire film.
I liked that contrary to the previous failed =, this 'romance' didn't end due to =, but =. You understand why these two wouldn't work long term (she's way too easy, and slightly engaged), but = nice while it lasts. Its conclusion was sweet in a way, though I felt it was spoiled a little with the final coda. But I can't deny that it makes sense, and it is effectively dramatic.
The final romance is of course the =, with the Czech girl. I was a little bummed out by how long it took for her to make a reappearance, but I understand why. When she does return things are short but sweet, and the two share instant chemistry. I was weirded out by how quickly they bang though!
Their story together is great, and the ending is melancholy, partly due to the history of the time, and her departure. I do think it's effective on its own, but I coulda done without the depressing narration the film ends on! Come on, Peter, is it really so hard to get a train ride one country over?!
Family patriarch Vesa He's a staunch Marxist, and unlike his father and son, has no time for ogling at women. Instead he much prefers reading his magazines on Communism, and giving lectures to people. He holds an emnity towards the protesters, claiming "They do not work, but they protest", and lines like this give him a good dimension, and show that while =, he =. Nor is his = shown to be all =, as it's implied he became a Communist to get a promotion, and his devotion to Tito is so [extreme] that all it takes is = for him to agree with the students wholeheartedly.
Peter's sister Vladitza is interesting! She's instantly infatuated with the = student Tzile, and this creates a fascination with politics and current affairs. But this interest goes beyond simple influence, and becomes genuinely dear to her heart, and she feels like one of the smartest most insightful characters in the film.
The family's youngest son is adorable and hilarious with the various comments he makes. Innocent yet worldly, he knows exactly what's up!
The grandfather is likewise a great guy. He's so earnestly likeable! Honest and upfront, and never a hypocrite. He can't condemn Peter for his misbehaving running after girls, because he says he was just the same at his age. Also it's funny how for all of Vesa's political chumminess, he can't get the same kind of favours as his dad can with his gambling =.
Elusive Smmer really does have a packed cast, and just about everyone is memorable in some way. The [militant] older boy Tzile is amusing, and his story takes an interesting direction, but that's never really followed up on, and we never see a proper resolution with him. Whether or not it's necessary depends on the viewer I guess.
This is a very nice looking picture. It's directed superbly, with many scenes looking like perfect snapshots. The environments are all nice too, from the old fashioned houses, to the schools, the beaches and campsite, etc. The film also portrays the aesthetic of the period well too, such as the snazzy mod fashion!
The acting here is great! Slavko Štimac may be the lead, and he does a fine job, but Bata Stojković is undoubtedly the MVP! He delivers a hilarious performance. Authoritative, bumbling], and =, he's a real hoot! Yugoslavia's/Serbia's other national treasure Mija Aleksić has a smaller role but no less funny and distinctive. He brings a lot of warmth and heart to the proceedings. Ivana Mihić is cute and spunky as the family daughter, and I really enjoyed her role. I wish I knew a girl like her when I was a teen! Sajna Vejnović is very pretty as the Czech love interest, and makes the most of her screentime. The rest of the cast all do well too, from the various girls, to the other characters who populate the film.
Elusive Summer of 68 is a great film to watch in its own right, as well as a perfect snapshot of a specific time period, in this certain country. It may not be perfect, but it's never a mean-spirited time, and it's sure to leave you laughing, and knowing more by the end...