‘Eat, Sleep, Die’ is a fine debut feature

Milan Dragisic (left) and Nermina Lukac in 'Eat, Sleep, Die'
Milan Dragisic (left) and Nermina Lukac in ‘Eat, Sleep, Die’

Eat, Sleep, Die is a strong debut feature film for writer/director Gabriela Pichler.

She draws upon her own life experiences for the story and somehow manages to cast the perfect actress in the lead role. “Rasa” (Lukac) works in a vegetable processing plant in a small town in Sweden. She resides with her father (Dragisic) who is a self-proclaimed invalid incapable of work. At least until he can’t qualify for the Swedish equivalent of disability. Then he leaves Sweden for a place where he can get some work and Rasa is left to fend for herself. Meanwhile Rasa rides her bicycle to and from the plant every day, because she doesn’t know how to drive. Nor does she have a license.

That’s not a problem, she’s a hard worker, happy with her job and her life and everything is just fine. Until the tension of layoff talk begins. The plant where she works is in trouble. Suddenly her origins are a problem. While she’s lived in Sweden most of her life, she is from Montenegro and foreigners can have trouble finding work in Sweden. Especially in small towns like the one where she lives.

But she isn’t too worried. She’s not just a hard worker, she outperforms everyone else on the processing line and figures this will save her job. Right up until the moment when the boss comes up to her while she’s working on the line and takes her into the office to give her the bad news. She won’t tell Dad that there is anything wrong, but the moment she stops working, things change.

Lukac does a wonderful job of showing the audience how much of a person’s identity can become intertwined with their job. Without it, she has little to do but eat, sleep and look for work.

The realism is stark and gripping. The audience becomes immediately invested in Rasa because she is such a genuine person, one who reminds us of someone we know. She loves life when she has somewhere to be, to do something useful on a regular basis and hates the absence of it. The ultimate test comes in the conclusion where she must make a very difficult decision. That choice illustrates how work just might trump family.

There are moments when Eat, Sleep, Die drags and it is definitely repetitive in places. But it’s still an excellent first effort and more can be expected to come from Pichler.

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