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Iryna Tsilyk Rock.Paper.Grenade Review


Rock. Paper. Grenade | 2022 Warsaw Intl. Film Festival Review

Rock. Paper. Grenade | 2022 Warsaw Intl. Film Festival Review

Three-time Jumps: Tsilyk’s Debut is a Light Look at the 90s in Ukraine

A man and a boy – the former a fully written text, the latter still resembling a blank page – see their fates intersect in Ukrainian filmmaker Iryna Tsilyk’s debut. Rock. Paper. Grenade is a comedic take on life in post-Soviet Ukraine in the 90s, which adapts an autobiographical novel by Artem Chekh titled “Who You Are.” And indeed, ‘Who are you?’ – today’s blank page, tomorrow’s written text – is a central question throughout, albeit one that the film’s use of irony and comedy makes it difficult to answer honestly.

The director shows us three different periods of Tymophiy’s (Andriy Cherednyk) life: childhood, adolescence and adulthood are associated with overcoming adversity and coping with a toxic masculine environment in which the protagonist learns to survive, live and love (first sex, then sneakers, and eventually guns). From a narrative point of view, the different stages of Tymophiy’s life are respectively related to his mother (Anastasiya Karpenko), grandmother (Halyna Veretelnyk-Stephanova) and grandmother’s lover, Felix (Yuriy Izdryk). He turns out to be the most significant, being a war veteran saddled with PTSD and a traumatic past. He loves classical music, grenades and guns, and lives like he has nothing to lose anymore.

For the easily manipulated Tymophiy, Felix becomes an influence and a role model, replacing the heroes hanging on the walls like Bruce Lee, Sly Stallone and Michael Jordan. The cliches associated with a 90s vibe, however, remain present and contribute to a portrait of idle emptiness. Tsylik skillfully makes the most of it thanks to the editing, which tends to cut the process from the events and to show us only the result (like a smile symbolizing the first time Tymophiy has sex). Even the music acts counter to the mood of the scenes, highlighting the comedy.

The question of identity remains unanswered in the end, with Felix’s disappearance resembling that of a fictional character and making Tymophiy look like one as well. The three time jumps leave post-Soviet Ukraine as a place where things are funny and light. It can be said that when a blank page meets written text, it’s the page that will leave its mark.

Reviewed on October 19th at the 2022 Warsaw International Film Festival – International Competition. 92 mins. Part of the The Fipresci Warsaw Critics Project.


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