20 Jun 2024

Where Elephants Go

"Where Elephants Go" is a movie in which no elephants appear. It is a story of love and friendship, a pseudo-melodrama, a puzzle, and a comedy. Or almost a comedy.

The camera is as restless as the characters. Much of "Where Elephants Go," the second feature film by Gabi Șarga and Cătălin Rotaru, is viewed agitatedly, moved by a camera that follows the city, life, exteriors, and interiors with the curiosity of a viewer hungry to see everything, to discover everything as quickly as possible. It is a technique that puts you on alert and becomes expected once you meet Leni (Carina Lăpușneanu).

In the first scene where she appears, the little girl calls out for Coaie, a stray dog she feeds with the sandwiches she receives in her lunch pack. Leni seems too young – both in the way she speaks and in how alone she is during her many wanderings through Bucharest. However, she is not a neglected child. She is dressed colorfully, and her entire demeanor exudes courage and haste. A haste we gradually understand as we learn she is very ill.

"What a crappy story," comes the expected line, the one you think of when someone suggests watching the story of an adorable little girl who is about to die. But "Where Elephants Go" marks its territory with so much tenacity and humor that you don't really have time to get sad.

Marcel (Ștefan Mihai) is also agitated. For different reasons, with different habits, but his energy sticks, like a friendly kiss on the cheek, to Leni's needs. While Leni calls for Coaie, Marcel mimics people on the street, asks women if they want to have sex, and gets slapped. Meanwhile, Leni's mother (Alice Cora Mihalache) juggles her day job and night job, guilty, hidden under a blonde wig, but it allows her to cope with the doctors' expenses.

Everyone hides something, and the elephants among them, the ones nobody talks about but everyone sees because they are, well, big, also become toys in the universe of a child who wants to live now, always, everything. And of a boy who doesn't really want to live anymore, which is why he mocks now, always, everything. And of a mother who lives strictly for someone else. And from this trio, riding waves of laughter and emotion, comes a cool conclusion: that life is to be lived always moving forward, especially after you find out that Leni has been here.