The spirits of Aki Kaurismaki, Jim Jarmusch and Mike Leigh move through this delightful debut from Belgian landscape painter / filmmaker Bouli Lanners in which an odd assortment of losers and loners look for connections in the colourless, flat Liege hinterland.
Though loosely-constructed, Ultranova's ostensible focal point is Dimitri, a starter-home salesman who becomes the object of fascination for two local girls Cathy and Jeanne, who are prone to flights of fantasy. meanwhile, Dimitri's work colleagues, led by the painfully uptight Verbrugghe, are going through their own personal crises.
Although unassuming and modest, Lanners' film is only deceptively simple; it gathers great strength from its immaculate compositional sense, detailed characters and an offbeat sensibility that never feels overly calculated. Treading a deft balance between mirth and melancholia - perfectly augmented by Jarby McCoy's atmospheric score - Ultranova is one of year's wittiest and most surprising discoveries.
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