I Never Cry follows Ola (Zofia Stafiej), a seventeen year-old from Poland who wants nothing more than to pass her driving test as her father, who works as a builder in Ireland, has promised her a car. When she receives a phone call telling that her father has been killed in an accident at work, she must travel to Dublin to retrieve his body, bring it home and if possible, bring back some money for herself.
The incredible work by Stafiej and writer/director Piotr Domalewski (one of the creators of Netflix’s Sexify) is to take a character like Ola who is on the surface extremely self-motivated and prone to, in other hands, irrational outbursts but there is such a sincerity to the performance that this comes across not as selfish or unlikeable but quite endearing. The film doesn’t spend more than a handful of minutes away from Ola and in doing so, it takes weighty issues and makes them relatable. Both the more universal in its depiction of the migration of labour from Poland within the European Union and the intimate in a girl discovering the life of a father she thought didn’t care for her, who instead was quietly attempting everything he could to create a better future for those around him.
The film is subtly made with a production that never attempts to be so clever as to overwhelm the storytelling. Little moments such as a water fight at a garage showcase a little panache, but just enough to enhance without detracting from the story. As impressive as Stafiej’s work is, she’s backed up by a stellar ensemble, especially Arkadiusz Jakubik who brings a world-weary, paternal warmth as the clerk of an employment company. It is a film lacking in showy moments but it is ultimately, all the better for it.
Early on, the film could be accused of being quite obvious in its attempts to make Ola’s home life more desperate. With Ola, her mother and her developmentally-challenged brother waiting on any money her father can send home. There are few moments that feels false, but these can be easily forgiven when surrounded by scenes of such genuine humanity. Perhaps the only real failing of the film are the occasional moments that feel too predictable. If you’re going to see a film called I Never Cry and you don’t expect the title to be a Chekhovian reveal near the end of the film, then prepare to be surprised.
I Never Cry represents the best elements of social realism, it exposes different points of views in ways that never feel patronising or reductive in its message or method of relaying it. Equally, in keeping its authentic feel, very little that happens in the film feels heightened or out of place. It shows that a lot of people who are part of systems we rage against are just trying to do their best, and that sort of small-scale moral idea feels quietly revolutionary.
I Never Cry is out in cinemas & to stream on 23rd July