Last Summer Breath (2021 film)

Last Summer Breath
Last Summer Breath poster.png
Worldwide theatrical release poster
Directed byJanoš Vilček
Produced byJanoš Vilček
Blahoslav Tesař
Written byOskar Málek
Screenplay byJanoš Vilček
Blahoslav Tesař
Nina Hoůmová
StarringMartina Gástrova
Miloś Furmanek
Karol Kovenec
Nadya Višnieva
Voyeslav Unsašt
Krištof Bečnik
Alina Kasparova
Matej Hojný
Music byRobert Daněk
CinematographyVeronika Štěpánková
Edited byMarek Tesař
Nino Ošer
Production
companies
Bistravian Film Group
Zenith Production Company
Distributed byKino OPPO (Bistravia)
Release date
  • 24 June 2021 (2021-06-24) (Bistravia)
  • 11 August 2021 (2021-08-11) (World)
Running time
109 minutes
CountryBistravia
LanguageBistravian
Budget€1.1 million
Box office€3.8 million

Last Summer Breath (bi. Последні Отдіх Лета, Poslédni Otdih Léta) is a 2021 Bistravian drama film, directed by Janoš Vilček, who co-wrote the screenplay with Blahoslav Tesař and Nina Hoůmová. The films follows three families joined by a tragic accident in which a girl named Laura died. As the parents and children are trying to cope with the past, more secrets are revealed.

The project was developed by the Bistravian Film Group, the longest continuously running film company in the country. The movie premiered on 24th June 2021 in Bistravia and was released commercially worldwide on 8th August 2021. It was later announced that Last Summer Breath will be screened during the 82nd Montecara Film Festival on 17th October 2021 - the first production of the Bistravian Film Group present in Montecara since The Witch in 1988.

An array of young actors starred in the movie, including Miloś Furmanek, Karol Kovenec and Martina Gástrova. Gástrova also participated in the soundtrack recording, in which her song, "Vina" (Guilt), co-produced with a compositor Robert Daněk, became the movie's promotional single and topped the Bistravian charts for 4 consecutive weeks.

Plot

A car enters a parking lot in a small town graveyard - Natan (Miloś Furmanek), a one-legged teenager steps out of the machine with a help of his parents: Vera (Nadya Višnieva) and Andřej (Voyeslav Unsašt) Dvořáks. They join two other families: the Váleks and the Hanáks. It is revealed that the families gathered on the anniversary of Laura Hanákova's (Eva Vítová) death - she died in a car accident, driving home from a party together with Natan Dvořák and Blažej Válek (Karol Kovenec) - the boys survived the crash, with Natan's leg amputated consequently. After praying, everyone leaves the graveyard and moves to a restaurant - in there, Anita Hanákova (Alina Kasparova) reminisces about her daughter, noting how often she would visit Dvořáks house, hinting at the possibility Natan and Laura had feelings for each other. Laura's sister, Olga (Martina Gástrova) exchanges a look with Natan's father, as he slams the table and asks his wife and son to leave.

The next day, Vera is seen cleaning an office building - she then receives a call from Lukas Válek (Matej Hojný), who asks her to meet in a toilet. There, he gives her an envelope with money inside and asks her how much longer would she go on on. Vera doesn't respond at first then puts on a fake smile and answers she wouldn't stop until he is dead. She leaves Lukas shaken, clearly disturbed by the woman's behavior. Meanwhile, at a mall, Blažej and Olga are hanging out and shopping - they notice Natan approaching them but ignore him and walk away. Natan shouts angrily and demands them to talk to him - he gets tired quickly and has to seat in order to regain strength.

Anita takes a bath at home and puts on a make-up. She tries to reach her husband but receives back a SMS revealing that he's a workaholic - he has to stay late another day and won't be back until evening. A doorbell rings and Andřej appears - the two can be seen embracing each other. After Laura's death, Denis (Krištof Bečnik) isolated himself from his wife and focused on his job to fight his grief. She got closer to Andřej, who, as she says, has also got lost because of the tragedy and that they found themselves in each other. Their meeting is interrupted by Olga coming home - while Andřej escapes through the garage door, she notices his wallet on a table in the hall but decides to say nothing.

Natan talks with his mother about a possibility to move from the town and begin his last school year in Miensk. She dismisses him, asking to be bit more patient. Vera then messages Lukas to meet her the next day after the office closes. At the same time, Blažej is caught doing drugs by his father and the two get into an argument. Blažej accuses his father of being absent from his life, while Lukas retaliates, claiming that Blažej did nothing to help them after his mother, Lena, died from a cancer. Blažej leaves, going to the Hanáks house. He makes out with Olga and is surprised to see her crying afterwards - she asks Blažej whether he knew that Laura was pregnant. He denies and both of them agree to keep that information a secret.

The next day, Andřej receives a call from a hospital - apparently, his wife was attacked by a hooded assailant and fell into a coma following a head injury. He and Natan hold Vera's hands, wondering why was she targeted. Andřej ignores Anita's calls and messages and she lashes out at Denis. Her husband, irritated, calls her to move on with life and get a job. Olga goes to the hospital and visits Vera, saying that she has always been a good influence and deserves more from life. She also talks to Natan privately, claiming that he and his father are the only ones responsible for Laura's death, leaving the boy puzzled. He follows her to the house but is stopped in a park by Blažej, who proceeds to beat him. He and Olga fleed the scene and run to Blažej's place. There they see that some of the furniture and equipment is gone - Blažej asks his father about it and is shocked to learn that they are moving abroad before the start of a school year. He refuses and throws a tantrum, while Olga leaves, afraid of and saddened by what she had experienced that day.

As Andřej seeks comfort in Anita's arms, his wife wakes up with no one by her side. She learns that her son was beaten up and, thinking that he fell victim to Lukas or his fellows as well, calls the police. She reveals that, three years ago, as she was working as a managing director with Lukas, their company embezzled over 5 millions dollars from several pharmaceutical companies in the country selling fake drugs. While Vera hadn't participated in the fraud, she ultimately lost her job and reputation, while Lukas, who took an active role in the intrigue, corrupted his prosecutors and was able to maintain his wealth and position. Revenge-driven Vera gained access to documents indicating Lukas' fault and has been blackmailing him for money. Her information come too late, though, as the police confirms he has left the country and fled to the Asterias.

Denis finds out about his wife's affair - upon confrontation, she admits to it and angrily asks Denis why he doesn't seem bothered. He answers that their marriage had fallen apart years ago and has been dead for over a year now. She slaps him and leaves the house, trying to find Andřej - she catches him entering the hospital and begs to start over together. He thinks it over briefly then shakes her hand off, asking Anita not to reach him again. He decided he needs to take care of his wife and son and that he neglected them for too long. Anita breaks down in the facility, smashing the glass door. She is then held down by security guards, as she continues to scream and cry. After witnessing her parent's argument, Olga decides to finally meet up with Natan. She goes to the town and enters a room where he's been put, finding out that Blažej is inside and hasn't gone with his father. The boy reveals that he's been angry at the wrong person and asks wounded Natan for forgiveness. He reveals that he feels guilty for the night of the accident - he was supposed to drive them all back but ultimately decided to get drunk and asked Laura take the wheel. He further apologizes, feeling sorry for Natan, Laura and their unborn child. This information shocks the boy and he reveals the pair hadn't slept together because they decided to wait until they finished high school. Olga finally unfolds the truth - Laura had a short-lasting affair with Natan's father. She quickly decided to end it but Andřej seemed fixiated on Laura - one night, after the party at Natan's, his father forced himself onto Laura. She only told Olga about that and asked her to keep quiet but the girls didn't know about the pregnancy until the day of the accident - that's why Laura decided not to drink but was too upset after finding out to keep control of the car, ultimately causing it to crash.

Natan, Blažej and Olga are seen together at the new school year's opening ceremony. After that, Olga and Blažej invite Natan to their apartmanet, which they rented to get away from Olga's parents. Despite having to work half-time jobs, they are happy to be independent. Natan reveals he and Vera made his father move out and that he hopes to never see him again. The trio goes on a small balcony, smoking and watching the birds fly by.

Cast

Top row: Martina Gástrova and Miloś Furmanek.
Bottom row: Karol Kovenec and Eva Vítová.
  • Miloś Furmanek as Natan Dvořák, a high school student whose leg got amputated following the car accident. He was in love with Laura and has hard time comprehending her death. A good student and a loyal friend, he struggles after friends reject him. Natan has a close bond with his mother, Vera, and, until he learned about his father's part in the tragedy, with Andřej as well. Furmanek claimed that it was one of his "most demanding roles" and that he found it "difficult to play a role of an oblivious good boy after reading through the entire script".
  • Karol Kovenec as Blažej Válek, another high school student, with often rebellious behavior. Son of an affluent businessman with whom he has a stained relationship after his mother died of cancer. He feels guilty about the accident, knowing Laura hadn't had crashed if he wouldn't have drunk and taken the wheel instead. Over the course of the movie, he falls in love with Olga, Laura's sister and faces his father. Kovenec stated in the interview that "playing Blažej was like turning coal into a diamond - a difficult, yet satisfying task".
  • Martina Gástrova as Olga Hanákova, Laura's younger sister. Despite not participating directly in the accident, she realizes in the aftermath that only she knows about Laura's last days. A caring youngster, she is deeply affected by Laura's death as the two were very close. Justice-driven, she reveals the truth to both Natan and Blažej, believing they were not guilty of the accident. Gástrova stated that it was her "the most important role yet" and that she "felt honoured to be chosen to play Olga's part". Martina Gástrova also prepared a single for the movie soundtrack titled "Vina" (Guilt).
  • Eva Vítová as Laura Hanákova, the girl who died in the accident principal to the story's plot. She appears in the opening and penultimate scenes, as well as in several flashbacks. She's described by her family and friends as "calm and brooding". She was in a relationship with Natan but also had a short-lasting affair with his father, Andřej.
  • Voyeslav Unsašt as Andřej Dvořák, Natan's father and Vera's husband. A plumber caught in an affair with Anita Gástrova. After Vera and Natan land in a hospital, he decided to end the romance to care for his family but the truth about his abuse towards Laura is revealed, resulting in his family forcing him to leave the home and filing a report to the police.
  • Nadya Višnieva as Vera Dvořákova, Natan's mother, Andřej's wife and Lukas' former co-worker. Once a skilled director, she loses her job after being falsely involved in an embezzlement incident and starts working as a cleaner. After getting access to documents indicating Lukas' part in the fraud she decided to blackmail him for money. She is ultimately severely beaten up by either him or his fellows and ends in a short-lasting coma. Afterward, she starts a new life with her son.
  • Alina Kasparova as Anita Hanákova, Laura and Olga's mother and Denis' wife, she is unable to move on after her daughter's death, losing job and starting a romance with Andřej. She realizes too late that, upon chasing after Andřej, she neglected her still living daughter and husband, ultimately losing them both.
  • Krištof Bečnik as Denis Hanák, Laura and Olga's father and Alina's husband, a workaholic that uses his job as an excuse for not being able to deal with the past tragedy. He's oblivious to his daughter's needs and his wife's romance.
  • Matej Hojný as Lukas Válek, Blažej's father and Vera's former co-worker. Prior to the accident, he lost his wife to a cancer and, since then, finds it hard to be a good parent to Blažej. Blackmailed by Vera, he decided to shut her down, assaulting her and, upon realization, leaves the country alone, as his son demands to stay.

The cast was praised by their roles, especially the younger generation, Furmanek, Kovenec and Gástrova, with the Illusionist, a Bistravian cultural magazine, foreseeing a "fruitful carrer for the trio, whom we could previously only cheer for on theater stages". Minor roles included Anja Valčikova, a restaurant waitress, Mártin Vuković, a school principal, Jurij Valent, a doctor tending to Vera and Natan and Evelina Kásprova, a young pollice officer in charge of the car accident case.

Production

Development

Last Summer Breath's idea was in development since 2013, when the director, Janoš Vilček, approached Oskar Málek, who he had been working with before on Little Bird (2008) and All the Saints (2013), asking to write a multi-narrative drama that could be relatable for any Bistravian, yet feel very global. Málek initially restricted the tragedy to teen characters, with the central personality (Laura) dying as a a result of two boys fighting over her. While developing the story, he was often consulting Vilček, who approved the sketch but asked his friend how would the events affect the children's' parents. This caused Málek to take a different approach, focusing more on familial aspects.

Blahoslav Tesař expressed his interest in the project in 2015 following a meeting of the Bistravian Film Group members - he noted that Bistravian productions, while often telling tragic stories, have a relatively "old school" view on the world and that Last Summer Breath can become a breakthrough film for the national cinematic culture with its globalistic and universal themes. He also introduced Nina Hoůmová to the production team, a young screenwriter that debuted in 2015 with a short film "Extasy". Hoůmová, described as a person "capable of conveying even the most difficult topics on the big screen" and left her in charge of character writing for most of the main roles.

The project, initially going by a working title "To Whom It May Concern" (the name later became a title for one of the tracks on the album), was further developed by the trio, with Hoůmová advising to go for a "late summer setting" - in an interview conducted before the movie's release, she admits that "last days of summer bear a feeling of nostalgia and a sweet, soft sadness that can contrast with the pain and tragedy perfectly". The weather and day/night cycle play a huge, yet subtle role in the film - most of the events shown on screen happen either during the sunset or in the night.

Casting

Casting began in November 2018 and involved over 1'500 entrants, both independent and from agencies. Initially, Eva Vítová and Martina Gástrova were supposed to play Olga and Laura, respectively, due to Gástrova's less experience. After a few test shootings it became evident that Gástrova would fit Olga's role better and the actresses were switched. Vítová stated later that she "felt sad she couldn't play Olga's part as she really connected with the character" but was "glad that someone so talented like Martina was given the honour".

Voyeslav Unsašt, who was given the role of Andřej Dvořák, and Alina Kasparova, who played Anita Hanákova, were given the roles after appearing previously together in "Lights Out" (2015) - Málek noticed an intensity these two could create while playing together and decided to cast them as tragic lovers. Both Unsašt and Kasparova were praised for their "utterly convincing performances".

Filming

Filming began in June 2019 and lasted until September that year. The unnamed town where the events of the movie happened was in reality Morvý, a small town on the coast of Lake Min in southern Bistravia with a relatively well-preserved post-Amathian architecture and, as described by Vilček, "a fantastic small town atmosphere, with family-led stores and quiet, reserved people". Despite the town's proximity to the lake, it doesn't appear in the movie, despiteone of the scenes taking place in the small restaurant on the promenade.

Apart from the town, filming locations also involved the Communal Cemetery near the village of Ostrová (opening scene) and in the St. Martin's Hospital in Kraljovice, where the scenes involving Natan, Vera and Lukas were filmed.

Soundtrack

Last Summer Breath: Original Movie Soundtrack
Last Summer Breath soundtrack.png
Soundtrack album by
Robert Daněk
Martina Gástrova
Alouna
ReleasedJune 25, 2021
Recorded2020–2021
Genre
Length53:16
LabelMiMusic
Singles from Last Summer Breath: Original Movie Soundtrack
  1. "Vina"
    Released: June 27, 2021

Robert Daněk composed the score of the film. It is Daněk's first collaboration with Vilček and second with Tesař, with whom he previously worked on Karol Balič's 2010 psychological thriller film the Opening. The soundtrack album was released digitally on 25 June 2021 by Daněk's label. Robert Daněk stated that he desired his compositions to "make you feel as the summer heat is going to weigh down on you and, despite knowing that, you reach for more, knowing that once it goes away, it's gone forever". "The Illusionist" described the album as a substantial addition to the story, praising its mood and resourceful meandering between different musical instruments. It also contains songs recorded by Martina Gástrova and another Bistravian singer and songwriter Alouna. Daněk and Gástrova's track, Vina, was first aired as a single on several Bistravian radio stations on 27 June 2021 and quickly reached the top charts - it placed first for four consecutive weeks on the Bistravia Top 40 chart between 11 July and 1 August 2021.

Tracklist
No.TitleLength
1."Vina (ambient version)"3:32
2."Cukrové Kisel"5:03
3."Obálka"2:00
4."Samotníci (feat. Alouna)"2:41
5."Deščivý Den"5:42
6."Spirála"3:40
7."Kogo To Může Dotýkat"4:11
8."Ohlídač (feat. Alouna)"3:17
9."Odruž Mne (feat. Martina Gástrova)"3:39
10."Objávenie"2:55
11."Uniknost Minaloůsti"3:09
12."Cena Odpušteni"3:04
13."Vina (feat. Martina Gástrova)"3:32
14."Letní Den"2:55
15."My (feat. Martina Gástrova & Alouna)"3:56

Reception

Last Summer Breath was released nationally in Bistravia on 24th June 2021 by Kino OPPO, the largest Bistravian film distributor. It also appeared digittally in Samorspi countries between 25th and 30th June 2021 and in the rest of Euclea on 3rd August 2021. It was theatrically released worldwide on 11th August 2021. It is Bistravian proposition for the 82nd Montecara Film Festival on 17th october 2021.

Critical response

The movie received mostly positive reviews from its critics. Review aggregator Rotten Cucumbers reports that 75% of 40 film critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 6.8/10. Its consensus states "Vilček's romance with a teen drama results in a fashionable, yet hard to digest story that punches its viewers from many directions at once".

Marko Kon from "the Illusionist" gave the movie 8 out 10 points, commenting on its "foul youthfulness and morally gray characters". He praised Vilček's and Málek's job and positively reviewed Hoůmová's involvement, deeming her to be "the next star of the Bistravian cinematic productions". Andrija Manůkova from the same magazine gave it 6 out 10 points, stating that "despite its premise, the film fails to deliver the story, focusing on making as much mess as possible in a short time". She congratuled Hoůmová and praised Kovenec's and Gástrova's performances.

Awards

Festival Category Winner/Nominee Result
Montecara Film Festival Best Film Last Summer Breath Nominated
Samistopol Film Fest Best Film Last Summer Breath Nominated
Best Actress Martina Gástrova Nominated
Best Original Film Soundtrack Robert Daněk Won
Min Festival Global Influence Last Summer Breath Nominated
Song of the Year Vina Nominated
Bistravian Film Fair Best Director Janoš Vilček Won
Best Screenwriter Oskar Málek Won
Best Actor Voyeslav Unsašt Nominated
Best Actress Martina Gástrova Won