Eat Sleep Die (Äta sova dö) (Director: Gabriela Pichler): Grounded in the director’s own experience growing up in a working-class immigrant family in a small Swedish town, Eat Sleep Die is a gritty and affecting debut. Using a non-professional cast (including her own mother), Pichler paints a portrait of working-class life that feels documentary-like in its realism, but with real warmth between its characters.
Raša lives with her father in a working-class town and works at a vegetable processing plant. She’s a hard worker and well-liked by her colleagues, but when the plant announces layoffs are coming, she’s keenly aware that her Montenegrin background may make it difficult for her to find other employment. When her father is forced to relocate temporarily to Norway to find work, she hides the news of her layoff from him as long as possible.
Nermina Lukac’s performance as Raša is remarkable. Playing this rough tomboy with a herculean work ethic, she’s nothing short of magnetic, especially in her reactions to the drudgery of unemployment and the inanity of the local job centre’s efforts to help. But the film’s best scenes are the ones portraying the tough but tender bond between father and daughter, and between Raša and her friend Nicki.
Pichler’s film reminds us of the dignity of work, no matter how seemingly menial it looks. It also illustrates the dignity of working class communities, and how the decisions of businessmen have a real effect on individual families and communities. There are parts of the film that tend to drag, but I’m glad that Pichler ends the film as she begins it, with a party. Raša is surrounded by family and friends singing, drinking and toasting to her success. It’s a small but needed measure of hope for a person we’ve come to admire.
Here is the Q&A with director Gabriela Pichler from after the screening.