The Girl from the Wardrobe is a trippy Polish film with a mild Jeunet/Caro vibe. Though not as over-the-top as Delicatessen, the smoky, moody apartment building full of neurotic characters tells of a darkly comic romance. Spoiler alert: there’s no cannibalism in this one.
DFF 36 (2013)
Jack (Piotr Glowacki) is a young urban hipster — as much as possible, considering he lives with his brother Tom. I assumed Tom (Wojciech Mecwaldowski) was severely autistic, but it’s not spelled out. In any case, low-functioning Tom has been known to escape when Jack leaves the door unlocked. Luckily the local constabulary know where he lives and are used to driving him home.
Their neighbor Magda (Magdalena Rózanska) across the hall is the title character, a reclusive wallflower about Jack’s age with suicidal tendencies. She does sleep in her wardrobe. She literally sees the world as a hostile place. We get cutaways to her perspective — a cop becomes an S.S. officer, young men playing soccer become a drooling, lecherous mob.
When Jack has a job interview he simply can’t miss, and Mrs. Kwiatkowska (Teresa Sawicka) down the hall refuses to look after Tom, Magda agrees to look after him — not for money but for weed. The story settles in to a budding friendship between Magda and Tom. Tom is one of the few people Magda doesn’t feel threatened by, and Magda is one of the few people willing to spend time with Tom without having to be paid.
There’s not much of a story to The Girl from the Wardrobe because it’s mostly about the characters and style. The film benefits from Glowacki’s impatient Jack and from Mecwaldowski’s sympathetic portrayal of Tom, who seems to prefer making three lefts when he needs to go right. Given the stodginess of the other neighbors it’s a hard not to like Magda, although she’s not the easiest film heroine to adopt. You get the feeling if she knew the audience were sympathetic, she’d find it aggressive.
The Girl from the Wardrobe is quirky and moody, but it doesn’t really break new visual ground. It lacks the sparkle and pace of Jeunet and Caro. It’s an interesting addition to a slate of Polish films, but on its own merits it might be a little thin.