The poster for Luiza’s Garden features a romantically disheveled Marcin Dorociński with a cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth, a high-powered rifle in his hands, and a dangerous look in his eye. It comes as something of a surprise, therefore, to discover that the movie is much more of a touching romantic comedy than it is an action-packed thriller.
Dude… there’s gonna be trouble
The eponymous Luiza (Patrycja Soliman) is the disturbed daughter of a small-town politician who finds herself unwillingly carted off to the loony bin. There she meets and is befriended by Fabio (Marcin Dorociński); a hoodlum with a brain, a heart of gold, and killer stubble, who’s pretending to be a bit of a nut so he doesn’t have to go to prison. Fabio is a bad bad boy, but you can tell he’s a good egg underneath it all and probably only guns people down if they really deserve it, or if they’re ugly. Luiza is as innocent and sweet as the day is long and it quickly becomes apparent that she’s just a bit oversensitive rather than being an out and out loony tune. Daddy is running for Mayor and her dancing-on-the-roof type antics are causing him embarrassment, hence the brief holiday with the dotty doctors.
Ahh… isn’t she sweet?
Little of the plot takes place in the sanatorium since Fabio soon gets sprung by his cunning mafia boss and quickly finds an excuse to go back and liberate the enchanting Luiza for whom he’s fallen head over heels in a ‘she’s so sweet and innocent and I haven’t even noticed she’s got a killer bod’ kind of way. Back in his rented villa they set up what will inevitably be a short-lived happy home with a rescued cat. Luiza sets about renovating the garden he’s barely noticed (hence the title I assume) and Fabio begins to think about getting out of the gangster business once and for all. Just one last job.
And no he’s still not thinking about her cleavage, honest.
Turns out that the cunning mafia boss, who also happens to be a lawyer (shock horror), had a reason for springing Fabio; a reason that involves a high-powered rifle and the demise of a particularly troublesome policeman who the papers are calling the ‘Polish Elliot Ness.’ One last job and Fabio can be on a plane to Mexico with Luiza posing as his sister, a suitcase full of cash, and the rescued cat posing as… well, a rescued cat.
I’m giving nothing away by letting on that the assassination doesn’t go exactly to plan. There are a couple of genuinely unforeseeable twists that wind up with some people in the morgue and others waiting in a Warsaw departure lounge. Rescued-cat makes it to the end unscathed and Luiza manages to do a bit of skinny dipping even though we’re absolutely definitely not supposed to be thinking about her womanly charms at any point.
Marcin Dorociński clearly deserves his Best Actor award from the Gdynia Film Festival. His deadpan delivery of the down-to-earth wit that constitutes much of the film’s humor is spot on and his whole performance rings true in that indefinable way that really good actors have of ringing true. Patrycja Soliman’s Luiza lacks a certain amount of credibility, but this is much more to do with the slightly confused rendition of mental illness offered by the script than it has to do with her undoubted abilities. The story is pure fantasy from beginning to end, but charmingly done. By the way, the English subtitles on the version I saw were generally good (better than many I’ve seen) but still riddled with silly errors and the occasional ridiculously awkward gaff. How hard would it be to get these things read through by a competent copy editor before they’re released?
Final verdict: One of the best home-grown Polish films I’ve seen in a long time. Go see it and forget about that overblown Katyń nonsense.