20 March 2016 | dglink
Small Overlooked Film from Early 1980's
Led by Nowak, the only member of the group with minimal English skills, four Polish contractors arrive in London to gut and refurbish a row house that belongs to their boss back in Warsaw. Heavily laden with tools and carrying only enough cash for materials, bare living expenses, and little entertainment, the four face separation from family and an often hostile English environment. However, the money earned will go a long way in Poland, and their boss will have a renovated London flat at a quarter the cost of using English labor.
Written and directed by Polish playwright Jerzy Skolimowski, "Moonlighting" is a low key film that focuses on the interaction among the four isolated men, who live, work, and sleep in the flat. Nowak, Jeremy Irons in a quiet understated performance, is the only one to regularly venture outside to find food and building materials. Faced with dwindling funds, Nowak devises various methods to shoplift goods or outwit store managers and cleverly double his grocery purchases. While sheer luck often aids Nowak with his dodgy schemes, the English shopkeepers seem remarkably dim, and the immigration officer on arrival at Heathrow was unbelievably gullible.
The story takes place in 1981, the year the film was shot, and, while Nowak struggles with finances and an approaching deadline, Poland stumbles into a military coup, and martial law is imposed. With phone lines cut between London and Warsaw and all flights to Poland canceled, Nowak must conceal the events unfolding at home from his compatriots to keep them focused on finishing the flat. Because three of the four principal actors have few lines and those only in Polish, the film concentrates on Irons, who ably carries the film. Although much of the action takes place inside the flat, Skolimowski's direction manages to avoid a claustrophobic feel. However, "Moonlighting's" leisurely pace does require patience. But Nowak's sharp wits and audacity, fueled by his determination to complete the assigned task despite the mounting odds, make for engrossing viewing. Skolimowski's "Moonlighting" is a small, overlooked film with many rewards for discerning viewers to discover.