Trains rarely stop in Macedonian director Svetozar Ristovski’s debut feature, Mirage. The freighters rumble through 12-year-old Marko’s broken town—seemingly through his family’s backyard—and his chosen sanctuary from his drunk father, sluttish sister, and beleaguered mother happens to be in the “train graveyard,” where there are tracks everywhere but no hope of transport. It’s a fitting metaphor for a film that borrows its dour epigraph from Nietzsche (“Hope is the worst of evils, for it prolongs the torments of man”) but tempers its severity with the melancholy beauty of Satie’s Gnossiennes. Playing a talented poet hoping to win a trip to Paris, young Marko Kovacevic channels gentle and ferocious with equal ease. Closely mapping (without being directly inspired by) the misery-laden youth of Kosta Racin, the acknowledged founder of modern Macedonian literature, Marko’s story is far from novel, but its wicked evocation of hopelessness transcends any familiarities.