2008 // Bosnia and Herzegovina // Srdjan Vuletic // November 17, 2008 // Theatrical Print (Landmark Plaza Frontenac Cinema)
Never mind the glibness of its title: Srdjan Vuletic's It's Hard to Be Nice is a raw fable about the curious outline that morality assumes in a wounded society. For a few weeks, we follow the darkly comic struggles of Sarajevo cab driver Fudo, portrayed with boundless appeal by Sasa Petrovic. With the fortitude of a friendly, beaten hound, Fudo attempts to claw his way out of a criminal past and into a prosperous, upstanding future for his wife and infant son. Unabashedly allegorical yet characterized by a dirty-fingernail pathos, It's Hard to Be Nice rarely overreaches in its bitter commentary on the contemporary cultural struggles of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Partial credit goes to Patrovic, who delivers a performance of miserable humor and righteous flickers, the latter tinged with the pitch-perfect awkwardness of a newly repentant man. That said, it's Vuletic who adeptly maintains the film's balance of naturalism and tragic fancy, excepting some bouts of manipulative silliness at the conclusion. Conveying the tribulations of reform and forgiveness with a knowing appreciation for its complexities, Vuletic captures the conflicting demands of law, peace, greed, and duty that overwhelm societies emerging from war's shadow.