THere is a welcome sequence of dark comedy that runs through Latvian director Juris Kursietis’ second feature film, which follows a young Latvian immigrant as he struggles to establish a new life in Belgium. In many ways, the situation of Oleg (Valentin Novopolskij) is sobering. He is unfairly fired from his job at a meat processing plant after a colleague loses a finger. His life situation is precarious and at the mercy of the wicked Polish landlord and mafia Andrzej (Dawid Ogrodnik). And despite a new roofer job, he can’t get paid.
A day trip to Ghent to visit the altarpiece by Hubert and Jan Van Eyck, The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, finds Oleg haunted by his grandmother’s insistence that his sacrificial lamb be hopeful, not sad. The film refuses to get bogged down in the gloom of Oleg’s predicament, with Kursietis’ irrepressibly animated pocket camera emphasizing its protagonist’s sense of perpetual forward motion. Ogrodnik’s performance as owner Andrzej, a charismatic good-natured speaker who seduces Oleg with promises of Fifa matches and free food in a kind of brotherhood house for migrants, also lightens matters. In one scene, he teaches Oleg how to shoot a gun in the woods. “You’re ready now,” he declares, as a terrified Oleg misses his mark, the bullet just grazing his shoe.