During the latter days of World War II and beyond, Latvian Catholic priest Anton Juhnevics (Varis Pinkis) comes under fire for hiding men on church grounds to avoid conscription into the Red Army. Obviously seeing Juhnevics as a threat, Soviet forces advance on his rural church, forcing the priest to make serious choices about his faith, family and activism.
Almost hilariously amateurish but well intentioned, the Latvian government-funded Alias Loner strikes as a baffling choice to open this year’s European Union Film Festival when at least half a dozen films being screened there are actually quite good. Working with an impressively low budget and no sense whatsoever about pacing, escalation or how to establish even a fractured timeline, first-time feature director Normunds Pucis’s work here is almost an unwatchable mess.
As early as 15 minutes into the film and following the filmmaker narrating all of Juhnevics backstory over photographs without developing the character, I had little clue what was going on or why I should care. It gets moving so fast, only to become a slog, bogged down by suspect dialogue, terrible performances (including flubbed lines that actually make it into the film) and precious little drama. It’s sequences of historical importance that crash into each other instead of flowing like a real film.
It’s positively dreadful, but the black and white photography captures wintry landscapes nicely. That’s the only compliment I can give.