Writer-director Bodo Kox’s debut feature follows the story of three isolated individuals who live on the same floor of a block of flats in a run-down residential area. Jacek (Piotre Glowacki) operates a business from his computer and tries to maintain a normal life whilst taking care of his autistic brother Tomeck (Wojciech Mecwaldowski) who can see air blimps constantly flying overhead. Magda (Magdalena Rozanska) lives across the hall and spends her days sitting in her cupboard smoking joints and watching photo stills on an old projector.
It’s as charming and weird as it sounds; flitting between an expose on lives less ordinary and madcap venture into the world of multi-verse theory, The Girl in the Wardrobe is ultimately a tender film about friendship but should not be underestimated as an incredibly funny black comedy. Bodo’s keen sense of humour is an integral part of his heartfelt portrait of alienation ensuring that the film remains –no matter how depressing- bizarrely buoyant.
Some of the most impressive parts of the film come from the often surreal merging of hallucination and reality, making what could have been drab and monotonous, ultimately involving and intriguing. The dull residential area in which the film is set seems grey and rotten, but Tomeck’s low flying air blimps and Magda’s jungle retreat are moments of fantastic exotic curio rarely made this matter-of-fact. Just when a conversation starts to get dull, or a sequence begins to slow down, things get weird. Rather than this feeling like some kind of last minute scene-save, it acts as Bodo’s critique on the monotony of life. Again and again society at large, at least the world outside the flat, seems predictable and ultimately vapid.
Here, under the heartstrings and weird imagery is an insidious account of the seclusion of troubled peoples. A trip to an art gallery flaunts contempt for a pretentious kind of piety found nowhere in the deeply honest world of Tomek, Magda, and Jacek. The entire cast prove their worth throughout, each receiving the same overall balance- the film itself executes so well- between humour and pain. Even though there are some dull points, Kox proves he is a capable and interesting filmmaker worth keeping an eye on.
A supremely bittersweet tale of suicide, alienation, and friendship, The Girl in the Wardrobe is a carefully balanced study of life on the outside looking in, a piss-take of the word “normal”, but perhaps most importantly an eye opening look at mental health.