Looking back at childhood from the safe distance of adulthood, many of us find ourselves surprised to realize that our parents essentially had no idea what they were doing. They may have projected a stalwart front, hiding a closely guarded secret, yet making it up as they went along. Sometimes, miraculously, this approach stumbles into accidental effectiveness. But, more often, we repeat the sins of our own parents; whether through benign neglect, indifference, or even more severe forms of trauma. Very few of us leave adolescence unscathed.
In the case of Andrej (Matej Zemljic), we are never overtly shown how his parents failed him. His father (Dejan Spasic) is a docile, ghost-like presence in a household ruled by his mother’s (Rosana Hribar) iron fist. She isn’t abusive, but she is unrelenting in her adherence to rules and structure. Whether this is a consequence of Andrej’s rebelliousness or a underlying cause is left up to interpretation. He stays out late drinking, fraternizes with boys who teeter on the edge of criminality, and is prone to unexpected bursts of anger when he feels physically or emotionally threatened.
Andrej lives on the precipice to avoid a truth he keeps deeply suppressed; his internalized homophobia is directed both inward and outward. He spits his rage at the world. We see him hit a girl who questions his masculinity, partake in cruel hazing rituals, and utilize violence as a method of extortion in the service of his group’s alpha dog: Zeljko (a brutally compelling hair-trigger performance by Timon Sturbej).