I’ve heard of psychological thrillers with a slow build. This is the first time I run into a psychological comedy with a slow build. I must admit this is new territory for me. That being said, that’s the closest I can come to describe director Geng Jun’s film Free and Easy.
It’s a desolate area of northeast China, where buildings are dilapidated and resources are scarce to nonexistent. Yet even here, crooks try to make a living. The soap salesman uses knockout soap. The monk requires contributions for a burned down temple. The policeman keeps harassing the young wife of a park ranger. The park ranger is trying to solve the mystery of who’s chopping down the trees. A young christian keeps trying to bring people to church.
It’s situational humour in its driest form, as the crooks keeps trying to make a living but there’s always bigger crooks that themselves. The landscape itself does not seem to be the best scenario for comedy nor crime, and yet it seems to add to the vacant stares and the dry delivery from all participants. It really looks depressing and hopeless at the first sight. Somehow the ability to laugh feels gone from this slum. It’s still there, hidden way.
Recommended if you’re looking for a rather bare, minimalist and slow comedy. It’s really an acquired taste, so you have to be willing to be patient. Don’t expect a comeback or the punchline to arrive before you’ve taken in the atmosphere. Feel free to light up a smoke while you wait or touch the monk for a blessing. Just don’t smell the soap.
That will do for now.