GIVE ME LIBERTY (2019)
Starring Chris Galust, Lauren “Lolo” Spencer, Maksim Stoyanov, Steve Wolski, Michelle Caspar, Ben Derfel, Arkady Basin, Zoya Makhlina, Darya Ekamasova, James Watson, Sheryl Sims-Daniels, Dorothy Reynolds, Lindsey Willicombe, Josette Daniels, John Day, Atavia Gold Star, Shawn Jolly and Steve Piper.
Screenplay by Alice Austen and Mikhanovsky.
Directed by Mikhanovsky.
Distributed by Music Box Films. 110 minutes. Not Rated.
At a time in which people who are different are looked at with suspicion, Give Me Liberty is a great melting pot of a movie which reminds you of the wonder that is the United States. This sweet, small film about some of life’s outcasts is surprisingly effective and touching.
The main characters in Give Me Liberty are mostly Russian immigrants, lower-class African Americans and physically and mentally challenged people. And yet, the movie is not heavy handed or downbeat. Instead it is smart and soulful and often surprisingly funny.
Give Me Liberty does not have a typical plot structure. Far from it. In fact, technically to a large extent, it is a series of character studies and anecdotes. But its very loose-limbed storytelling style just makes it more realistic. Life is being lived here. We are meeting people we would never meet otherwise. (Particularly credit to the filmmakers for using real handicapped people to play themselves.) You don’t have a bunch of striking actors here. These are real people living real lives.
Our guide in this offbeat tour of Milwaukee’s backstreets is Vic (Chris Galust), a twenty-something Russian American immigrant who works as a van driver who picks up and drives people with disabilities to their appointments or on errands. It is a job that comes with its share of built in challenges and Give Me Liberty shows us a day in which everything which could go wrong does.
As he becomes later and later and has more and more complications, he risks losing his job in order to take care of everyone around him. He feels a sense of duty and a friendship with the people around him – whether they be his clients, or the group of Russian immigrants from his building who guilt him into giving them a ride to a local cemetery for a neighbor’s funeral.
Again, this may seem a little depressing, but it’s not. It is eccentric and funny and wildly chaotic. Whether he is dealing with an obese blind diabetic (Ben Derfel) whose life is a litany of complaints, or a defensive but ultimately sweet ALS sufferer (played by social media influencer Lauren “Lolo” Spencer), or a chattering group of Russian Jews (complete with an accordionist), Vic is always helpful – even when it is at his own expense.
In the meantime, he gets later and later for all of his appointments, with complications like the funeral, local protests, talent shows, moving furniture, near fires and just the needs of his riders slowing him down even more.
Galust is a natural actor and should have a great career ahead of himself. Spencer is also a surprisingly enjoyable screen presence, as is Maksim Stoyanov as a charming con man who has hooked up with the Russian group, pretending to be the nephew of the late neighbor.
Give Me Liberty shows us many people coming from very different places in life and the world – and finding a common ground. It is a sweetly episodic look at what America used to be not so long ago, and what it should be again.
As you may pick up from the title, Give Me Liberty is a sweet, comic, and unusually patriotic look at a segment of America that is almost never exposed on film. I for one am glad I got a chance to visit this part of the world.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2019 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: August 30, 2019.