Watching “Give Me Liberty” was often emotionally exhausting and frustrating for me. As constantly throwing me into its intense and boisterous cacophony of raw emotional moments, the movie breathlessly drives its story and characters back and forth between whimsical comedy and hard-boiled drama, and I found myself baffled and disoriented at times, but then, to some degree, I came to admire how it attempts to juggle many different things together just like its increasingly frustrated and exhausted hero.
The movie mainly revolves around Vic (Chris Galust), who is the son of a Russian immigrant family living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and has recently worked as a van driver for the medical transport of disabled people. When he starts another working day of his, he unfortunately happens to be saddled with his senile grandfather and other old Russian folks who are going to attend of the funeral of their recently diseased friend along with his grandfather, and he must find a way to handle not only these old people but also his several clients including a disabled African American girl named Tracy (Lauren “Lolo” Spencer), who is not so pleased as Vic comes to be quite late no matter how much he tries to arrive at her residence as quickly as possible.
The main source of humor in the film comes from the gradually chaotic and frustrating circumstance surrounding Vic. At one point, his grandfather causes a big trouble in the building where he and other old folks live, and we see him frantically trying to take care of the consequence of his grandfather’s thoughtless action. In case of a bunch of other old people accompanying Vic along with his grandfather, they incessantly express whatever they think and feel, and the movie deliberately adds an extra layer of chaos and confusion as not translating their seemingly endless Russian conversations to us at all.
Amidst these sounds and furies which seem to signify nothing, the movie further accentuates Vic’s pressured state of mind via nervously jarring cuts and deliberately shaky camera movements. As cinematographer Wyatt Garfield’s camera usually sticks around Vic and a bunch of other characters stuck in his van, we feel like sitting right next to them, and the editing by director/co-writer Kirill Mikhanovsky feels abrupt and abrasive as often jumping from one quick shot to another. I must say that this can be quite annoying and distracting for some of you, but Mikhanovsky manages to generate the palpable sense of life and personality from his busy mix of story and characters, and the overall result is often reminiscent of those raw and intense emotional moments from the works of John Cassavetes.
Fortunately, Mikhanovsky and his co-writer Alice Austen serve us a number of nice human moments which are relatively less loud and intense. When Vic and other characters accompanying him happen to stop by a job training center for the disabled, the movie lingers a bit on a bunch of various disabled people who are simply having some fun and entertainment, and we get relaxed a little as appreciating its unadorned and honest presentation of those disabled people. Many of humorous moments in the film come from a care-free guy named Dima (Maxim Stoyanov), and we come to like him more than expected as amused by how he comes to function as a fixer for Vic and other characters, though we wonder whether he is really a nephew of that recently diseased person as he said to Vic.
And we get to know a little more about Vic and his problematic family. It is clear that he has been trying to earn his living for himself, but he still finds himself stuck with his family, and there is an absurd moment involved with his attempt to remove a couch from his family residence despite the protest of his mother, who later turns out to have a very good reason for that. In case of his sister Sasha (Darya Ekamasova), she is instantly attracted to Dima when he comes to Vic’s family residence along with Vic, and we subsequently get a small funny scene where she tries to give him a jacket to wear instead of his accidentally soiled shirts.
Meanwhile, Vic and Tracy come to feel something mutual between them as they happen to spend time together more than expected. Although they are different from each other in many aspects, they come to care a lot about each other as getting to know each other more, and we are not so surprised when Vic decides to do something for Tracy’s brother, who happens to get himself into a big trouble later in the story.
Around that narrative point, the movie becomes heavy-handed as pushing its story and characters too hard into a circumstance associated with a certain relevant social issue in the American society, and I am not that satisfied with its rather convenient finale, but the main cast members, most of whom are non-professional performers, still support the film well with their earnest natural performances. Chris Galust and Lauren “Lolo” Spencer click well together during a few private scenes between their characters, and the other substantial performers in the film including Maxim Stoyanov and Darya Ekamasova are also effective in their respective roles.
Although it is not entirely without weak aspects, “Give Me Liberty” works as a raw slice of life which vividly reflects not only the diverse aspects of American life but also several ongoing social issues including medical care, and I appreciate how it busily balances itself between humor and realism. Due to those emotionally draining moments throughout the film, I do not think I will revisit it soon, but I will not deny that I responded to it strongly during my viewing, and I assure you that it will leave you some indelible impression to linger on your mind.