The Father is the third film by award-winning Bulgarian duo Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov. At only 1 hr 27 min this effective “dramedy” about a father and a son (the son Pavel played by Ivan Barnev and the father Vasil played by Ivan Savov) won the Grand Prix at the 2019 Karlovy Vary International Film Festival earlier this year and is now pleasing audiences everywhere it screens.
The Father opens on the awkward funeral of Valentina, Vasil’s wife, attended by a small crowd of, mainly, older villagers and a latecomer, her son Pavel back from the city. After the cemetery, close friends and family members are gathered around a meal at Vasil’s place. They are remembering and honoring the memory of his dead wife. At one point, a neighbor nervously mentions that she received a call from the deceased and the conversation turned to talks of supernatural. Despite Pavel’s warning, the mourners encourage the widow to get in touch with a specific healer in a remote building in the countryside.
Among the group of paranormal or “magic believers”, the son is the only skeptical/rational person. Afterward, he tries to help his dad understand that all the “signs” he sees – from the mysterious call to an exploding vase in the house at night, or the power outage after Valentina passed away – are just coincidences. Vasil is already in a fragile mental state, but the old man is determined.
He finds a way to force his son to help him with a last favor.
“…received a call from the deceased and the conversation turned to talks of supernatural.”
Freshly processing his grief Vasil thus sets out to find the psychic in order to decipher the meaning of his recent dreams and to contact Valentina on the other side. He desperately wants to tell her what he did not have time to when she was alive.
Pavel has difficulties connecting or reasoning with his father, but he decides to postpone his return to the city to help him get closure. Along the way, he does not only have to deal with his dad’s demented nature, but he also has to find lies to tell his workplace and his pregnant wife to justify his absence throughout their many calls (as he oddly decided to not let anyone know about his mother’s passing) all while finding time to experiencing bereavement is own way.
The intimacy of a road trip in a small car, creating an atmosphere of claustrophobia, but also heightening proximity between participants, is used as a dual medium to highlight the tension between the mourning men and respectively help them to bond.