Whistlers, The (2019)

A Romanian crime-comedy noir of sorts with deadpan faces serving a tight if convoluted narrative about deceit and double-crossings. 

⭐⭐⭐⭐


Dir. Corneliu Porumboiu
2019 | Romania | Comedy/Crime | 97 mins | 2.35:1 | Romanian, English & Spanish
Not rated – at least M18 for sexual scene, nudity and violence

Cast:  Vlad Ivanov, Catrinel Marlon, Rodica Lazar
Plot: A policeman is intent on freeing a crooked businessman from a prison in Romania. He travels to Gomera, an island in the Canaries, where he must first learn the difficult local dialect, a language which includes hissing and spitting.
Awards: Nom. for Palme d’Or (Cannes)
International Sales: MK2

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse

Viewed: Screener
Spoilers: No


I wasn’t that impressed by Corneliu Porumboiu’s previous film, The Treasure (2015), but his latest, The Whistlers, just about worked for me. 

It’s certainly a more intriguing film in terms of its premise: a Romanian policeman, Cristi, caught in a plot by drug-dealers to free a criminal from a prison in the Canary Islands, has to contend with communicating in a new language that is entirely made up of whistling. 

It is also the film’s main selling point, and we do get scenes that involve people whistling to each other in open spaces so that no one can decode what they are saying (it’s actually quite hilarious to hear these ‘bird sounds’). 

The film, however, is more or less a crime-noir comedy built around this concept, as the police try to gain an upper-hand through the constant surveillance of Cristi’s actions in hopes that he might make a fatal error. 

The storytelling while tightly-paced can feel convoluted, and after some time, any interest in plot takes a backseat; instead, we become more interested in the characters, in Cristi, and in Gilda (the film’s requisite femme fatale played effectively by the sexy Catrinel Marlon) as they encounter deceit and double-crossings. 

Vlad Ivanov plays Cristi with a straight face, and even when under duress, he seems incapable of emoting.  The supporting characters have these deadpan faces as well, and it makes for some kind of dark comedy as the film careens into sharp acts of violence. 

The Whistlers is not exactly a must-watch, but those who have been to Singapore will be in for a familiar sight.

Grade: B


Trailer:

Music:

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