Reviewing our favourite films of the month

Film
Mixed Media

Tramontane the film

Tramontane

directed and written by Vatche Boulghourjian (105 minutes)

Rabih is a blind young singer and violinist in a Lebanese folk group, who, when he applies for a passport to travel with them discovers his ID card is fake and the town hall has no record of his birth. But, no problem – he and his mother, who is properly registered, simply need to have blood tests. His mother tells him they lost his birth certificate in the civil war and his uncle, as he always does, will sort it. Rabih, impatient, organizes the blood tests. Only then does his mother tell him she had unofficially adopted him – during the war, after his army officer uncle had found him as a baby in an abandoned village. This sets Rabih off on a quest to uncover his past.

An old comrade of his uncle praises his bravery in rescuing him from a car under fire. But another comrade, incarcerated for 20-odd years in an asylum, has a rather different story to tell Rabih about his uncle. Following leads, and travelling across the country, Rabih tries to uncover his own history amid the repressions of Lebanon’s.

This main story is well-grounded, convincing and sometimes very moving – as in his meeting with a Muslim elder. The family aspect, though, works less well. But it is well cast, well acted, and beautifully performed by the blind musician and his band. 

★★★★ ML

Kills on Wheels 

directed and written by Attila Till (103 minutes)

Kills on wheels the film

Zoli and Barba are teenage friends working on a graphic novel, starring themselves. They are set on winning the amateur section at a Budapest comics’ convention and to get their book out into the wider world. Zoli needs the money – he uses a wheelchair and, without surgery in Germany, his doctors tell him he will die as his increasingly contorting spine squeezes his liver and kidneys.

Barba has cerebral palsy and uses a mobility scooter. This is not an obvious setup for an action thriller. But, as it happens, a tough-talking, no-bullshit ex-con called Rupasov has seen them at the rehabilitation centre and wants them to work with him. He’s a spinally-injured wheelchair-using ex-firefighter – and now a hitman.

Till’s sympathetic, arresting and entertaining thriller overturns expectations, and has nice twists on familiar themes. A heavy-drinking action man, seemingly cynical, but with a good heart, who’s thwarted in love and brave, but with a streak of self-pity. Two innocents, who find unexpected strengths. And, not least, some good bleak jokes.

Kills on Wheels is taut, quick moving and well-grounded in character and relationships. There’s a horribly believable gangster, with a pack of killer dogs, who has us rooting for our heroes. It pulls together well at the end, not all happily. It may well be appallingly remade in the US with able-bodied stars – this film, though, is a real surprise, and a delight.

★★★★ ML

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