Despite the weighty subject matter, Train Driver’s Diary doesn’t shoot for anything too profound. Rather than derailing into an ethics debate on moral culpability and manslaughter, Train Driver’s Diary focuses on its characters – a smart move that, thanks to a standout performance by Lazar Ristovski, elevates this little Serbian flick into something quite impressive. Ultimately, Train Driver’s Diary sits nicely between morbid comedy and light drama – and gets the most out of a fascinating premise and a slew of rich characters.
It’s easy to get on board with Ristovski’s Ilija; every grunt and grimace feels driven by a rich history of loss and swallowed pain, and Ristovski nails the balance between endearing and aggravating as Ilija struggles to cope with accidental fatherhood. Ilija’s newfound “son”, Sima – both young and old – is portrayed with great performances, although as the adult Sima, Petar Korac’s guffawing facial expressions are often more distracting than anything else.
Radovic’s script and direction keep the film on track, although a scene in the third act gives him a chance to enjoy taking the visuals off the rails, and overall set design is particularly excellent. Ilija’s trainside house and the carriage-condos of his colleagues are both inviting and lonesome – and the decor speaks volumes about these characters without beating you over the head with anything too metaphorical. If this film makes any traction in the international market we may be seeing a lot more carriage getaways cropping up on Airbnb.
Train Driver’s Diary is a lot of fun; jokes are macabre without being distasteful, conflicts are emotional without feeling melodramatic, and generally the whole film runs smoothly, and arrives on time with a sweet and affecting resolution. Easily the best Serbian film about train drivers to arrive this year.
CAST: Lazar Ristovski, Petar Korac, Mirjana Karanovic, Nina Jankovic
DIRECTOR: Milos Radovic
WRITER: Milos Radovic
SYNOPSIS: Statistics show that during their career every railroad engineer working will unintentionally kill 15 to 20 people. This is a story about the innocent mass murderers and their lives.