Wednesday, 21 October 2020

Czech Film Review: I Enjoy the World with You

By Lee Robert Adams | Prague Daily Monitor |
26 August 2020

As a writer dad, I enjoy observing the behaviour of other fathers at children's cafes and play areas. There's always the guy with his face stuck in his phone, oblivious to his offspring force-feeding a plastic pineapple to another kid. Then there's the frazzled dad, gazing sadly into the distance as if trying to catch a glimpse of a parallel universe where he still doesn't have children.

There's the laddish dad, trying gamely to get involved with a beer in hand, giving it his best while also clearly wishing he was down the pub with his mates. Then there's my favourite, the dad who starts eating a bag of Pom-Bar out of boredom or hunger, picks up speed, marvelling at how moreish they are until he's stuffing whole fistfuls into his mouth, glancing around furtively to see if anyone has noticed him devouring his kid's snack. I've often thought that the manufacturers of Pom-Bar should do an alternative grown-up packaging, like when there were adult covers for Harry Potter books, so dads could get stuck into a bag without feeling guilty or childish for enjoying them so much.

Of all the types of dad I observe in these situations, it's very rare to see one committing to his role with as much gusto or joie de vivre as the three central characters in I Enjoy the World with You. It's a relentlessly kind-hearted family film that was once voted the best Czech comedy of all time. And, while it didn't exactly have me rolling around on the floor with laughter, it's not hard to see why the movie is so enduringly popular.

The story introduces us to three middle-aged fathers gearing up for their annual lads-only week away in the mountains. We have laidback sound engineer Pepa (Pavel Nový), kindly surgeon Albert (Július Satinský) and eccentric musician Michal (Václav Postránecký), all trying to make arrangements while trying to avoid inviting their wives along. Fed up, their other halves coerce them into taking the children along instead.

The boys take this with remarkably good spirits, despite suddenly being buried under a pile of six very young kids. Once they reach their picturesque cabin on the snowy slopes of the Beskydy mountains, they declare themselves Masters of Parenthood and set about their cunning plan - knackering the little ones out so much during the day that they'll have time for their usual shenanigans in the evenings.

This involves marching the kids around in the snow, using them as sled dogs, and so on. Without the wives around their attitude to childcare is a little rough around the edges, in scenes that will have most parents laughing and cringing in equal measure - wiping a kid's butt with snowy pine needles; almost giving a little girl frostbite by taking her on a hike in just her slippers; and sledging down a hill in a canoe while holding a baby.

Inevitably the guys end up knackering themselves out instead, to the extent that Albert and Michal end up in bed not long after the kids, giving Pepa the opportunity to sneak out on mysterious nocturnal jaunts across the mountains...

Working from her own story and screenplay, Poledňáková keeps things light and cheerful throughout, aided by Václav Zahradník's jolly score. There's also the bonus of Helena Vondráčková's pop classic "Sladké mámení", an earworm that you'll no doubt recognize if you've had any contact at all with Czech radio. It appears in various iterations and really sets the tone for the whole movie.

Some of the sexual politics feel a little dated, as does the film as a whole, but it still plays well thanks to the lovably good-natured performances from the three lead actors. Sure, their take on fatherhood would border on neglect in these days, but their hearts are in the right place and the kids are clearly having a blast. Crucially, the child actors aren't nearly as annoying or vomit-inducing as moppets tend to be in American and British movies.

Overall, I Enjoy the World with You is a lovely film that has such a warm, positive attitude towards fatherhood. If you're a dad you don't need me to tell you it's a tough gig sometimes, and the movie certainly made me think about how present and engaged I am with my own kids when mum is away. I started making changes for the better the very next day...

***
I Enjoy the World with You is showing on Czech Netflix at the time of writing.

Lee is a writer and film critic living in Brno. He studied film at uni, but dropped out halfway through because his tutor was always skiving off. He spent the next two decades using his half-education to passionately consume and write about movies. He has written for several outlets across the web, including the late-lamented Way Too Indie. In 2018 he founded Czech Film Review, approaching the cinema of his adopted home country from the perspective of a knowledgeable outsider.