In order to save his son from a bad situation, Pamfir, a Ukrainian father, is forced to resume his illicit activities.

Ukrainian films distributed in Quebec are few. Especially those of the caliber of Pamfir, which was shot before the Russian invasion.

This first feature film, which takes place in a rural region of Ukraine, quickly takes on biblical and mythological proportions. A father will do anything to rescue flesh from his flesh, even pitting himself against an almighty God rooted in savage capitalism.

Very symbolic, the story, which cheerfully flirts with thrillers and westerns, brings the destinies of young and aging populations into confrontation, a metaphor for a country at a crossroads that hesitates to turn its back on its past to embrace the ‘European Union. The scenario, against a background of smuggling and emigration, acts like a sword of Damocles on its hero. A gear that recalls the cinema of Cristian Mungiu and mainly his excellent R.M.N., without however reaching the same level of subtlety and maturity.

Its filmmaker Dmytro Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk, however, has nothing to envy to this one on the formal level. His virtuoso staging multiplies the magnificent sequence shots that leave us blissful. The images are bathed in a unique light which gives the whole a hostile climate of the apocalypse.

The whole thing reaches its climax during a frenzied party that the filmmaker Emir Kusturica would not have denied. A crucial moment when man turns into an animal to better face fate. An almost constant duality in the work, which begins precisely with a sublime evocative shot where the protagonist wears the mask of an animal.

Holding the film on his shoulders, Oleksandr Yatsentyuk is a true force of nature. The muscular actor is imposing, seductive as much by his physical strength – the violent fight scene is reminiscent of Oldboy – as by his fragility. He taps into the very core of his sometimes toxic masculinity to avoid hunkering down.

Very controlled despite some narrative wanderings, Pamfir is a creation not to be missed. The film makes you want to immerse yourself in Ukrainian cinema, which has no shortage of gems to cherish, whether it’s Reflection and Atlantis, by Valentyn Vasyanovych, or The Tribe, by Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy.