Eszti (Kátya Tompos) is in a park waiting for a date, when Zoli (Ferenc Elek) turns up to snatch a few quiet minutes for himself. It’s all a misunderstanding, and the girl wants to make it clear there is no chance of them being together. Two total strangers in the heart of Budapest on a date that goes astray, they start talking and it is a meeting of two totally different worlds. Yet they are just about to start getting to know one another when Gábor (Roland Rába), Eszti’s rude and unruly brother shows up...

Awkward romance loses way towards the end.

Anyone lucky enough to have seen Tom Noonan’s splendid 1994 US indie chamber drama, What Happened Was"¦, will find the scenario for this Hungarian three-hander immediately familiar.

Both films depict an awkward first date in something close to real time and are partly or wholly set inside a flat where one of the participants resides. Where Noonan’s film balanced on the edge of skin-crawling embarrassment (think Ricky Gervais’ The Office), Hungarian writer-director Zsombor Dyga approaches a tense social situation with a gentler attitude.

Somewhat peculiarly, we come in towards the end of what appears to have been a less than sizzling restaurant dinner. The slim and attractive Eszti (Kátya Tompos, an Emily Mortimer lookalike) is trying to gently explain to the portly Zoli (Ferenc Elek) that their date hasn’t been working out and she wants to go home. He manages to talk her into walking her home and then up to the warehouse flat she shares with her brother. Along the way we discern that he’s a nice guy in her eyes, but his immature attempts at humour make this relationship a romantic non-starter. Only gradually do we gain a sense of how they met, or discover his personal background (though not so much of hers).

For its first two thirds Dyga successfully keeps his drama aloft, aided by two exemplary performances and a directorial approach that privileges cinema rather than the filmed play the material might suggest. Sadly, though, when Eszti’s celebrity chef brother Gabor (Roland Rába) returns home, the story tosses away its credibility by relying on an outlandish coincidence that is meant to carry the force of revelation. What had seemed to be leading somewhere interesting ends up as much-ado about very little.

Gábor Marosi’s cinematography is burnished and moody, though this too-dark transfer annoyingly loses the image entirely in a few spots.


1 hour 21 min