I Never Cry: A Polish-Irish comedy of difference with a revelatory lead

Piotr Domalewski’s new film works best as a showcase for the terrific Zofia Stafiej

A scene from I Never Cry.

Film Title: I Never Cry

Director: Piotr Domalewski

Starring: Zofia Stafiej, Kinga Preis, Cosmina Stratan, Shane Casey, Arkadiusz Jakubik

Genre: Drama

Running Time: 96 min

Fri, Jul 23, 2021, 05:00

   

“Fifty zloty for a pack of smokes!” Ola (Zofia Stafiej), the teenage hero of Piotr Domalewski’s convincing Polish-Irish release I Never Cry, exclaims to a bewildered Dublin tobacconist. It is not an important scene, but it stands in for all the differences, large and small, that still exist between the eastern and western ends of the EU. This is a comedy of difference. It is also a serious drama about the unkindness of the labour market and our wider responsibilities in society.

We begin in Poland with Ola making a mess of her driving test. Domalewski’s own script makes it clear from the start that she takes no nonsense. Following a near collision, she works out her anger on the other car’s number plate. The instructor is aghast when Ola wonders if the test can still continue. Don’t mess with Ola.

Shortly after this incident her family receives a phone call from Dublin. The infuriatingly euphemistic official explains Ola’s dad has had an accident at work and, after some prodding, clarifies that he “didn’t make it”. She is dispatched to Ireland to clear up the paperwork, bring the body home and gather up any money coming to the family. Ola encounters stonewalling from both Irish officials and the Polish-Irish community. She runs into a harassed woman who may have had a relationship with her dad. She rails at the sky.

Not for the first time in fiction has a character visited a foreign country to deal with a relative’s death and learned queasy truths about that person’s remote life. Setting a visitor loose has always been a handy way of investigating your own home city. But I Never Cry doesn’t really offer a portrait of Dublin. Shot in persistent greys and washed-out blues, the picture zings us rapidly through streets that, too befuddled by unhelpful jobsworths, Ola has little chance to take in. The closest we get to a magic moment sees a group of contemporaries sweep her through the urban sprawl and out to a celebration in the shadow of the Pigeon House towers. The city and she don’t quite connect.

I Never Cry works best as a showcase for a terrific young actor with a nuanced grasp of a complex character. Ola is a pain in the behind (ból w dupie?) throughout, but she is also caring, smart and uninterested in compromise. Fifty zloty! More power to her.

Released in cinemas and digitally from July 23rd.