Garden Store: Suitor
Panorama | Contemporary World Cinema
With more than a dozen of their films having screened at the festival—going all the way back to VIFF 99 when Cosy Dens, the highest rated film of all time in the Czech Republic, screened—director Jan Hřebejk and screenwriter Petr Jarchovský certainly qualify as VIFF favourites. Their latest is the final instalment in a trilogy of feature films they made under the rubric "Garden Store," each of which focussed on one family, first during the German occupation in WWII (Garden Store: Family Friend), then in the aftermath of the war (Garden Store: Deserter). The good news? Not only is the final part of the trilogy, Garden Store: Suitor, the best of the lot—it was also deliberately conceived as a kind of prequel to the beloved 1960s-set Cosy Dens, which features the same family depicted here.
It’s the late 1950s, Czechoslovakia is under communism’s sway and a yawning chasm has opened between the prewar and postwar generations. Daniela (Anna Fialová), the nearly adult daughter of Vilma (Aňa Geislerová) and Jindřich (Martin Finger) meets Mirek (Ivan Lupták) at the garden store run by her aunt and uncle while she’s on summer vacation. Love blossoms, but father Jindřich will have none of it—he’s determined to put a stop to the romance… With kids wanting to live—and love—like there’s no tomorrow and parents intent on orchestrating perfect matches and promising futures, Hřebejk sets the stage for a winning romantic tragicomedy that pulses with the sort of youthful energy that fuelled the Czech New Wave.