Set three years after the fall of the communist regime in Poland comes this neo-Western story of the rise and fall of a young Polish boy, Zyga. A modern Robin Hood tale of rags-to-riches, Yuma is an exciting story drenched in unease between the German-Polish relations; a raw depiction of an otherwise familiar narrative.
One day, Zyga (Jakub Gierszał), who is in his early twenties, has a particularly bad fall-out with the pair of shoes on his feet. Deciding that his current situation in his small, Polish hometown is not acceptable, Zyga sets out to rectify his circumstances. All too ready to help her nephew, Halinka (Katarzyna Figura) enlists Zyga’s help in smuggling cigarettes across the border into German territory.
A stark contrast to Zyga’s home, across the border lays a land rich with opportunity. Zyga begins to fulfil his appetite for the material goods he can now get his hands on, and so “Robin Hood” is born: bringing expensive goods back to his comparatively poor friends and family – everything from designer clothes, to eventually electrical appliances and jewellery. The term Zyga uses for his petty crime, is “Yuma”.
Gierszał plays the role of the blue-eyed-bandit with ease. The transformation from frustrated youth, to successful sinner is made more believable thanks to Gierszał’s angelic looks, providing him with an excusable look of innocence.
Figura plays the role of Zyga’s buxom aunt with voluptuous appeal. Her dark desires attract Zyga and his two friends, her promises of wealth facilitating their wishes for a better lifestyle.
Director Piotr Mularuk has achieved a wonderful portrait of post-communism life. The film is unbiased and readily shows the Polish envy of life over the border, as well as greed and the downward spiral of Zyga. Other films are too keen to portray the Germans as the great oppressors, but for Yuma it is Zyga’s crimes that instigate his fall.
Within this particular film, comparisons can be drawn between Poland/Germany and the United States/Mexico. The neo-Western theme of Yuma also draws association from the similarly named film 3:10 to Yuma. There are a few hints at Delmer Daves’ 1957 classic: a mannequin dressed as a cowboy, Zyga’s first purchase which is a pair of cowboy boots, and even more glaringly obvious is the station clock showing the time of 3:10 as Zyga embarks on his first smuggling expedition.
Yuma is fun. Although, there are heavy notes and sincere implications running throughout, and with Eastern Europe renowned for its harsh landscapes and intense personalities, Yuma allows small rays of light to shine through, melting the tough exteriors of the main characters, leaving them totally bare and human for the audience to enjoy.
With not a hint of Hollywood sparkle, Yuma is a good, solid piece of Polish cinema, earning every one of its four stars from its “polished” performers.
Yuma was released in UK Cinemas on 31st August.
Watch the trailer here