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In his first two films, both of which have played at the fest, Slovakian director Juraj Lehotsky shows signs of becoming another reliable figure. I have warm memories of his debut feature, Blind Loves, a fiction-documentary hybrid that played four years ago. That movie suggested the work of a cuddlier Ulrich Seidl, presenting several eccentric but otherwise well-adjusted blind people in theatrical tableaux and staged dream sequences. Blind Loves was a documentary that drew liberally from fiction filmmaking. Miracle, which screens tomorrow at 9:15 PM and on Tuesday at 8:15 PM, is a dramatic feature that draws liberally from documentary. In intimate, direct-cinema fashion, Lehotsky follows a delinquent teenage girl as she enters, then escapes a juvenile detention center. I shouldn't divulge what happens next—the narrative takes several unexpected turns in its 77 minutes, and Lehotsky's poker-faced direction makes them especially surprising.
Viewers familiar with contemporary European cinema might be reminded of the Dardenne brothers' Rosetta (1999), if not other, more recent films depicting the miseries of post-Communist eastern Europe (among them Seidl's Import/Export). Miracle doesn't surpass these points of reference, nor does it tarnish them. Owing perhaps to his background in documentary, Lehotsky is a skilled realist. No detail feels overstated or out of place, and the filmmakers grant special attention to how the shape of a room can influence the action that takes place within it (like the Romanian film Child's Pose, which also screens tomorrow night, Miracle gets lots of dramatic mileage out of cramped interiors). This is less sentimental than Blind Loves, but no less terse or observant.