By Carlos Aguilar | SydneysBuzz December 19, 2013 at 11:30AM
Eat Sleep Die, Sweden's Submission for the Academy Award Nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. U.S. :None Yet. International Sales Agent: The Yellow Affair
Forgotten once the promising hopefulness of youth fades away, an individual’s aspirations can mutate into broken dreams if not pursued. Regrettably, as years go by the chances of achieving those goals decreases, but the need to feel productive remains because we fear to be deemed obsolete. Caught up in the monotonous rhythm of working just to afford the imperative necessities, life runs the risk of becoming a passionless task. Thus, a meaningful purpose might be the only key to a fulfilling existence. Nevertheless, this convoluted preoccupation is perhaps more daunting today considering the current state of the world. With humor and in a modest fashion Gabriela Pichler’s debut Eat Sleep Die aims to demystify the meaning of life, and reveal it a something more profound that the sequence of the eponymous physical processes.
Tomboyish and impulsive Raša (Nermina Lukac) is a young woman living in a small town in Sweden with her ill father (played by Milan Dragisic). Originally from Montenegro, they moved to Scandinavia when she was just a baby. But despite being fully acculturated and not knowing any other home but this tight-knit community, occasionally she still feels like a foreigner. She is hardworking and a bit rough around the edges, yet utterly friendly. Employed at a vegetable packaging company, she works alongside many other immigrants from around the globe and a few locals. Raša adores these people. They have become her extended family and she always feels welcomed wherever she goes. Being so comfortable and accepted here, she can’t see beyond her manual labor job. She finds no reason to think about the future until her situation is not as certain.
Unexpectedly, her perfectly arranged microcosm is disrupted when the company announces there will be layoffs. At home, her father, whose aching back doesn’t allow him to work, is tired of being supported by his daughter. Disregarding his frail condition he decides to travel to Norway to work for a few months. Ultimately, and despite her efforts, Raša loses her job.
Feeling unproductive, and with her father gone, she roams the town unsuccessfully looking for work. The rest of her time is spent alongside her recently unemployed friends at a center where they get advice on how to reenter the workforce. Unskilled and with no education, Raša will need to consider if there is something else out there for her in the city or if she wants to live the rest of her days going aimlessly from one dead-end job to another.
Having no concrete goals and content with her routine, Raša believes this town is the only place where she can be somebody. She is afraid of finding out whether or not she can be something greater. She is afraid of discovering if life can be more than a succession of ordinary days. Such fear comes partially from her insecurity of being considered an outsider. She wants to fit in and makes it clear that regardless of her Muslim background, she belongs there. Furthermore, she doesn’t have a role model that can inspire her to defy conventions. Her father, although he loves her, is similarly adrift barely managing to get by. Therefore, unemployment turns out to be a blessing in disguise for the young lady. It drags her out of her comfort zone, and gives her a chance to grow and discover herself. Played with unpretentious charisma, Nermina Lukac's performance as Raša carries the film with relatable naturalism.
Like the best realist works Pichler’s film is never preachy not does it try to find a simple answer to its character’s dilemma. Infusing this small town story with greater global concerns, her film explores the struggle between necessity and satisfaction. Although the romanticized idea of happiness can never be fully attained, she believes everyone, including her characters, deserves a chance to exploit their potential. Still, under the yoke of responsibility their existence is reduced to a repetitive pattern of mundane activities, which ensure survival but ignore fulfillment. Unable to perceive themselves as something other than laborers, they can’t seem to accept doing anything out of sheer pleasure. Their concept of what life should be does not factor in the possibility for improvement.
Certainly a movie of its time, this is a phenomenal character study elevated by its personable protagonist. Incorporating insightful social commentary the filmmaker examines what modern society values and considers rewarding. Eat Sleep Die is a humble, but astoundingly introspective work, which in a wonderfully smart manner urges the audience to start really living before dying.