Cast: Vlad Ivanov, Catrinel Marlon, Agusti Villaronga, Cristobal Pinto
Director: Corneliu Porumboiu
I know I write from an American perspective when I write these reviews, but everyone has to agree that there are cultural barriers that exist when watching movies produced in other countries, especially ones where english is not the primary language. That being said, there’s something incredibly captivating about this unknown that draws people like me out of my comfort zone and into a world I know little about. While the plot of The Whistlers is very straightforward and recycled, the unmistakable elements used by Porumboiu help separate this movie from the rest of the genre and establish itself as a respectable movie regardless of what language you speak.
The film follows Cristi (Ivanov), a Romanian man who comes to the island of La Gomera in the Canary Islands to learn the language El Silbo; a language made up exclusively by whistling sounds. While this seems pretty straightforward, we soon learn more about Cristi and his group of teachers and what their intentions really are. Over the course of 97 minutes, we watch as Cristi progressively gets better at the language, but then uses it for less than legal means that end up getting him and everyone else involved in a barrage of chaos. Let’s cut to the chase and highlight the best inclusion in this movie; El SIlbo. Going into this viewing, I had no idea this was a thing and my limited linguistic background had never considered that this was a way that people could communicate. When you also take into consideration how the movie jumps from Romanian to Spanish to English to El Silbo, this is the type of movie that I can see being shown in classrooms for years to come. For any aspiring polyglots, The Whistlers shows just how gifted some people are in this area of their life and that it could be you one day. Outside of that though, The Whistlers is a pretty standard crime thriller. There are twists and turns, good guys and bad guys, all the nuts and bolts that make the genre so interesting in the first place. The Whistlers plays it safe and doesn’t really do anything outside the ordinary here, so it doesn’t particularly have any faults, but it isn’t spectacular in its own right. The characters stand out, but none are particularly memorable. It’s an above average film in its genre, but there are much better examples to pick from regardless of the language you speak. It looks as though Porumboiu is a pretty well-received director in Romania, so I have a gut feeling he’ll be back on the international stage in no time. I haven’t seen anything else he’s directed in the past, and even though The Whistlers isn’t my favorite movie of the year, it’s good enough for me to potentially seek out other projects that he’s worked on and see if they’re better than what we got here. I don’t know a ton about the Romanian film industry, but I don’t really have much of an opinion of it after watching The Whistlers.
Overall, The Hustlers is good enough to be considered for Best Foreign Language Film, but when I look at what it went up against, it clearly was a step behind movies like Parasite. It’s an interesting gimmick when you stack it up against what is usually done in these types of scenarios, but ultimately The Whistlers lacks that extra push needed to make it an elite movie. I can’t quite put my finger on what would make it inherently better, but maybe someone else who watches it will find the value that I currently can’t from an otherwise solid movie.
Overall Score: 6.5/10