`The Girl from the Wardrobe': Love among the neurologically impaired

"The Girl From the Wardrobe" -- a terrific new cutting-edge film that concerns love between the neurologically impaired -- is Polish writer-director Bodo Kox's seriocomic tale of three young misfits, each lonely and alienated in a different way.

Jack is a skilled (and oversexed) webmaster, supporting himself and his brother Tom, who has "savant syndrome" -- the syndrome more evident than the savant. Tom's severe autism, rocking back and forth with periodic bursts of bizarre behavior, makes caring for him difficult. He's okay unless overstimulated by something on TV -- in which case, he tends to attack whoever is nearest him.

"Normally he's normal," Jack apologizes, on one such occasion, to a sexy lady client who happened to be sitting next to Tom. As she stomps out, Jack moans, "I'll never find a girl if you keep assaulting them!"

Their otherwise comfy fraternal routine is disturbed when an elderly neighbor can no longer baby-sit him during the day. In desperation, Jack turns for help to the mysteriously reclusive woman across the hall who just moved into their building.

That would be beautiful Magda, our title-character "Girl." Pity poor Sophie-the-translator's choice: In Polish, she's "in the closet" -- but that sounds too gay in English. So they call it the "wardrobe" -- meaning a big piece of furniture, not a collection of clothes. In either case, hypersensitive Magda spends most of her time there, smoking weed and emerging now and then to attempt suicide.

She also has a thing for rabbits and hallucinatory visions involving Nazis and dirigible blimps. In one of many darkly funny moments, Jack asks her for an exchange of phone numbers to call "in case he wants to kill you." But who is falling in love with whom?

We get increasingly involved with these insane characters, thanks to the fab performances: Wojciech Mecwaldowski as Tom is Rain Man on steroids, or maybe Peewee Herman on crack -- you never know when he's gonna go bananas. Piotr Glowacki's Jack is an Alan Bates-type lovable rogue. Magdalena Rozanska as "The Girl" is a charming enigma. Each is more (but sometimes less) dysfunctional than the other.

There's a melodramatic twist or two that we could have done without. But this is a fascinating, twisted, original effort overall -- happy, sad, weird, unsettling -- with a super soundtrack.

It's misfits taking care of misfits, and somehow finding common ground.


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