The Lesson, written and directed by Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchenov, has plenty of things to talk about but never seems to feel that way. The farce of desperation is never really milked to its full black comedy potential keeping the feature firmly grounded in the, sometimes dull, domain of drama.
Nadezhda (Margita Gosheva) is on the precipice of financial ruin and the auction of her home after her drunkard husband fritters away her wages trying to repair their old camper van. She has three days to turn up the required money, but between loan sharks and bank heists, she finds a solution to her problem.
Playing it so straight actually works in an entirely different way, the film becomes tense, far more surprising and at times even oddly horrifying. There’s a cynical and, at times, enraged portrait being painted here: a world of unjust structures populated with perverse, unreliable men. The film is entirely about the silent struggle of women everywhere under the capitalist system, encapsulated in one woman’s truly unlucky tribulations. It’s a film that step-by-step identifies the trap of finance in a short window; from Nadezhda’s moral lessons to the anonymous thief in her classroom, right up to her own desperate measures, it never bothers to demonise such behaviour because it is- no matter how coldly- consistently on her side.
Unfortunately there’s not enough going on to satisfyingly fill the run time and that’s the biggest issue. That aside Gosheva is great, and there are plenty wonderful moments where the film really grapples with how unfortunately funny the situation is.