Romania Goes to Juvie in If I Want to Whistle, I'll Whistle
Youthful offender, two years in juvenile detention and only a week from release, gets a visit from his dysfunctional family and flips out big-time in this memorable first feature from fertile Romania. For most of its 94 minutes, Florin Serbans If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle is straightforward and observational, using a largely non-professional cast to dramatize the prison routine and its sometimes mysterious hierarchy, as well as the pressures building inside the close-cropped skull of its handsome antihero, Silviu (neophyte actor George Pistereanu).
Understatement only heightens the sense of smoldering resentment. Self-contained Silviu, often shown in Dardenne-style back-of-the-head close-ups plowing through his confined world, is fatally unable to articulate his situationa plight emphasized by the pretty young sociology student (Ada Condeescu) who arrives on a mission to interview the inmates. If I Want to Whistle is slack yet tauttension builds whenever Serban hits the narrative pause button. Even once all hell finally breaks loose, the suspense is enhanced by lengthy stand-offs, real-time delays, and pervasive confusion on how to best handle a situation gone wildly out of control. The viewer is prompted to ponder the crisiss possible (and unpredictable) resolution as well as the degree to which Silvius freak-out was premeditated. Its a measure of the movies success that one oscillates between two despairsnoting the abject failure of the system and the utter futility of revolt.
Get the Film & TV Newsletter
Stay up to date on the best new movies with our critics' latest reviews, interviews and trailers for the films coming to a theater near you each week.