The Country Teacher: Coming Out in the Czech Republic

The solemn new addition to the tiny elementary-school faculty in a rural Czech outpost gets off to a heavily symbolic start by turning his pupils on to the glorious diversity of nature—a measure not just of how badly he needs to leap out of the closet, but also of what an open book this movie is going to be. Given the baby steps currently being taken into gay-themed cinema in Central and Eastern Europe, one wants to look kindly on any movie that won Best Queer Film at the Reykjavík Film Festival last year. And there's something undeniably fresh about a coming-out story set among animals a-borning and flowers a-blooming rather than in a gay bar with support from wisecracking drag queens. But this sweetly ingenuous film, written and directed by Bohdan Sláma, is a lot less sentimental about cows and flowers than it is about its human protagonists, who fall domino-like in love with churls who won't love them back. Zuzana Bydovská is very good as the mother of a sullenly beautiful boy with whom the teacher falls in love, but Pavel Lika plays the hapless pedagogue with a long-faced saintliness that leads us to hope in vain for situation comedy. Instead, following one truly risky scene, we get more natural rebirth, and the damp discovery that romantic love may be for the birds, but people will always need people.

 
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