Reviewed for FilmFactual.com & BigAppleReviews.net, linked from Rotten Tomatoes by Harvey Karten
Director: Jerzy Skolimowski
Screenwriter: Ewa Piaskowska, Jerzy Skolimowski
Cast: Hola, Tako, Marietta, Ettore, Rocco, Mela, Sandra Drzymalska, Isabelle Huppert, Lorenzo Zurzolo, Mateusz Kosciukiewicz, Tomasz Organek, Lolita Chammah
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 11/19/22
Opens: November 18, 2022
Travel broadens. When you leave our shores for a few weeks in Europe or Asia or South America, you see and mostly enjoy people who are different from you. That is certainly the case with EO, a donkey, who walks, hee-haws, and runs into living beings in Poland and Italy who are not like him. Even people who are justifiably called asses by others are not like him, or her, depending on which of the six actor-donkeys show up in the lead role. The movie does not have a feel-good ending and, for that matter, runs through an alternation of feel-good scenes and bummers. It’s all about EO’s odyssey; running into horses, cows, pigs, and the most conspicuous animals, those that walk on two legs. No, they’re not all favorites of his, but he simply cannot forget Kasandra (Sandra Drzymalska), his loving caretaker who caresses him with such ecstasy that you may wonder whether she has some perv blood in her veins.
There is not much dialogue and only a vague likeness to a tightly-woven story. The people are different not only from EO but from one another. Some are kind, others brutal. I am reminded of a you tube video posted by Animal Aid India of a donkey which had been beaten with a lead pipe, leaving him with a swollen eye. He is loved at last by people who tend to his pain and feed him antibiotics.
EO is first featured in a circus and whipped by a man who is marching the donkey to another destination. Animal rights people protesting the very idea of a circus take him away under the authority of a Polish statute. Somehow Jerzy Skolimowski, who directs and who for the most part has little problem with animal stubbornness, senses that no matter where EO travels, he believes that there’s no place like home and family. Cue Kasandra.
EO thrives when in a petting zoo he is, well, petted by a group of special-ed schoolkids. But when he’s on a horse farm, he does not play even second fiddle. The beautiful horses and their human groomers treat EO as though he were not there. When the winning team in a local soccer game raucously celebrate their victory in a bar, their cheers do not go over well with a bunch of young thugs from the losing team. While the latter are at it, they beat EO as well. Such is the life of a would-be mascot.
“EO” might not have been such a hit were it not for exceptional lensing by Michal Dymek, the cameras catching a traveling robot like the kind shown in a recent episode of “60 Minutes.” The opening scene is dizzying; a shaking camera doused in reds and blues. Throughout the episodic tale, EO watches the passing parade as though serving as an assistant director to Fred Wiseman exploring human institutions: generally blasé when caressed but of course disturbed when beaten.
Isabelle Huppert, who is given billing above the line just after Sandra Drzymalska, does not belong in this movie, even while we agree that the film is episodic. She appears as a countess who may be the mother of a priest. The camera pans away when the priest seems about to kiss her on the lips.
I am reminded of the many people who have told me “I love animals,” often while cutting into a one-pound slice of sirloin. Goes to show how the English language, said to have the largest vocabulary of any idiom, evokes meanings that that subvert the definitions you assume.
86 minutes. © 2022 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – B
Acting – B+
Technical – B+
Overall – B