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At first their purchase looks very promising. Jonathan (Guillaume Cyr) and his pregnant girlfriend Sarah (Sonia Cordeau) “inaugurate” their new home with a quick shag in the kitchen, right in front of their much loved long-haired chihuahua Sugar. Soon they begin to find out that pretty much every corner of the building is falling to pieces. Electricity and plumbing too require a major upgrade, meaning that most of the walls need to be broken. They are advised that the improvement works would cost a whooping $80,000. This is a real fortune for the young couple already struggling to make ends meet. This is when their relationship begins to collapse.
Jonathan is the big boy type of husband. He has a puerile sense of adulthood. He possesses the body language of a teenager, wears baggy trousers and is into armour and combat gear. He is also rather clumsy and particularly inept with DYI (he struggles to assemble an Ikea cupboard). However he has a big heart and loves his wife, but she is just too upset at his inability to fix the house. He loses his job at the local factory (due to mass layoffs and downsizing, his position being replaced by a machine), but he’s too scared to share the news with Sarah. Meanwhile, the lesbian builder carrying out the refurbishment works continues to relentlessly and unabashedly hit on Sarah, who at first doesn’t know how to react to her advances.
Sarah takes part in a make over television show in order to raise some money for the crumbling household. The television crew paint the couple’s bedroom yellow and decorate it with hideously gaudy New York posters, vinyl adhesives and bric-a-brac. That’s because Jonathan dreams of one day visiting the Big Apple. The outcome is cringeworthy, with Jonathan unable to forge any sense of surprise and excitement for the cameras. And this isn’t the only kitsch element of Bungalow. As renovation progresses, the colour palette of the film becomes increasingly plush. Sarah’s decorated nails punctuate and divide the film into apparent chapters. This is a movie unashamed to embrace the cheap and the retro.
One day, Jonathan receives an irrefutable proposition: $100,000. He agrees to what seems like a minor task, without realising that he is being co-opted into a very dark crime. Money can get very dirty, even gruesome, he learns it the hard way. Fortunately for Jonathan, his wife is blithely unaware of her husband’s malfeasances. In fact, she couldn’t be happier: the six-figure sum has enabled the couple to complete the houseworks, which seems to be far more important than anything else in her life.
Overall, Bungalow is a cute little comedy. Not the laugh-out-loud type, but instead the one that makes you smile, snigger and grimace. Cyr and Cordeau are particularly strong in their roles. They successfully create deeply fallible and yet likeable characters. In the final scene, you will wish you could give them both a very big and warm hug!
Bungalow has just premiered at the 26th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival as part of the event’s Official Competition.