Francis (Kaspars Znotins) and Katrina (Maija Doveika) are returning from a dinner party at a friend’s house when a man steals Katrina’s purse and punches Francis, and that’s just for starters. This event happens after Katrina tells a joke about Francis’ meekness. Francis feels that since he couldn’t prevent the attack from happening, that Katrina was onto something. This is just the first five minutes of Alik Karapetian’s third film Firstborn (or Pirmdzimtais, its original Latvian title). At first glance, Firstborn appears to be a movie about a man trying to protect his wife, but there’s more to it than that.
“…returning from a dinner party at a friend’s house a man steals Katrina’s purse and punches Francis…”
After the attack, the policeman who is taking in the report also happens to be Katrina’s “old suitor” Gustavs. Francis is not too thrilled with the fact that he is the man on the case and tries to take matters into his own hands. After a diligent search, Francis finds the attacker and attempts to reason with him. The attacker ends up taking even more from him, and this makes Francis even angrier. As he tries to retrieve his watch and money, an accident happens that finally gives Francis a small bit of relief from the situation. He seems to have changed in Katrina’s eyes. Soon after, she becomes pregnant. Everything seems to have changed, and the incident seems to be behind them, but it isn’t.
Firstborn, while being a textbook cat-and-mouse psychological thriller, is also about Francis reclaiming the masculinity that he feels has been taken by the man who attacked him and his wife. This concept is a little eye-roll-inducing for me, but in the context of the film, it makes sense. Francis is a quiet, bookish architect. Katrina is a beautiful yet boisterous and commanding woman. It’s not too out of the ordinary for a man to be intimidated by women like that, however ridiculous that may be. He wants to be the one who protects his wife. He wants to be the one in charge. This attacker and even Gustavs are making that hard for him to do.
“…worth watching for the first and last thirty minutes that are rife with metaphors and violence…”
He ends up meeting a hunter on a location scouting excursion for a building he designed. The location is in the middle of the forest where a seemingly abandoned building is located. The hunter sneaks up on him with a gun, but the two end up forming a congenial bond, despite the fact the guy has some very interesting dead animal specimens hanging up in his shed. Later on, the hunter teaches Francis how to hunt, which helps him in a confrontation that changes everything.
The plot to Firstborn is a little meandering, but the first and third acts have some gripping moments. The sound design is very cool and maintains a tension that isn’t always tangible in the on-screen action. I would say that Firstborn is a decent psychological thriller and is worth watching for the first and last thirty minutes that are rife with metaphors and violence. If anything it was interesting to see a film from Latvia which I have to admit I don’t see all too often. I could’ve been in the wrong mood for it when I watched it, but it was definitely a little boring in spots. Decide for yourself if I just missed out on something.
Firstborn (2019) Written and Directed by Aik Karapetian. Starring Kaspars Znotins, Maija Doveika, Dainis Grube, Kaspars Zale.
5.5 out of 10 stars