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ZAGREBDOX 2021

Review: Love Around the World

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- This ZagrebDox Audience Award winner, helmed by Anđela and Davor Rostuhar, is less of an actual film and more of a Valentine’s Day stunt that will make your teeth melt

Review: Love Around the World

It’s easy to see the appeal of Love Around the World [+see also:
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, a saccharine documentary by Anđela and Davor Rostuhar, which world-premiered in the Regional Competition at ZagrebDox – or at least in theory. With scenes of various people talking about their relationships, patchworked together, it’s just like those interviews with the older couples in When Harry Met Sally…, revealing how they first met. Only now, there is nothing else happening in between, not even a fleeting glimpse of a wagon-wheel coffee table or a pastrami sandwich, which also means it all becomes very tiring, very quickly.

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The directors share their own story, too, so it’s all fair game, proving just how easily we tend to fall into clichés whenever the heart is involved: he “knew” right away when he saw her; she started humming a wedding march. Fast-forward a bit to a year-long honeymoon, and they are now roaming free, learning what love is to people all around the world. It’s all in good faith, obviously, but more down-to-earth viewers will feel like someone has taken them hostage, and surprisingly enough, it’s not Richard Curtis. Nothing more than a souvenir from one couple’s journey, it’s bound to test other people’s patience a bit. Just like those endless holiday snaps, shown to friends upon their return.

That what they come up with here is sentimental – well, that’s pretty much a given. But with its lack of any clear point of view or, to put it bluntly, a point, this assembly of monologues in various languages would have worked better outside of the cinema – as a social-media project, perhaps, and apparently, there is already an e-book to go with it, too. There is also something unnervingly odd about seeing all these couples, very often exoticised through their traditional clothing, smiling while recounting the good, old times when they first got married – for example, aged 15 and 5.

The Rostuhars are just listeners here, and they don’t make any judgements, which probably made for a pleasant atmosphere all around. But it also means they never go very deep. Where they get lucky is that some of these people are simply engaging and fun to listen to. “He was wearing the dirtiest clothes I have seen on a white person in Africa,” goes one, recounting their not-quite meet-cute. Someone else admits to “buying” his wife with her own money, and then another person chuckles while relating an account of a speedy seduction over the course of three days, before the lady’s original fiancé showed up. It’s not all feel-good, however, with some partners remaining almost stubbornly silent throughout and pain making it into these stories as well. But as they insist on “exploring different cultures” and their respective traditions, after a while, it becomes apparent that it’s not really all about love; it’s about commitment – sometimes emotional and sometimes not quite, with others deciding one’s faith, for example. Then again, that title just wouldn’t have had the same ring to it.

A co-production between Germany and Croatia, Love Around the World was produced by Klub za ekspedicionizam i kulturu (KEK), Drugi Plan and Autentic.

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