Passengers: Review

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In addition to her deeply personal documentary “Od višní do višní,” Jana Boršková has primarily written several travelogues for Czech Television. However, for the past six years, she has been working on a documentary focusing on children from a children’s home. Specifically, she has been interested in a theater group called “Pasažéri z Dětského domov Lety.” Out of the original eight teenagers being observed, the documentary now revolves around a core group of four.

The film follows these four young individuals on the cusp of adulthood as they transition from the security of their childhood home into a world they scarcely understand. It raises questions about why children in such homes aren’t given more practical guidance for life outside. As expected, these teenagers struggle with aggression and other emotional challenges and have issues respecting authority and boundaries.

While the documentary is generally successful, it has a significant issue for me. It was released roughly a year and a quarter after the film “Goodbye to the Child,” with which it shares more than just the central theme. The storytelling style and the characters’ apparent struggles with life make for a similar viewing experience. Thus, anyone who has seen the earlier film may find little reason to watch this new one, unless they wish for an even more detailed portrait of “Passengers.”

When comparing the two documentaries, “Passengers” falls a bit short, as its main characters are less memorable and harder to distinguish from one another. However, the film does offer accidental glimpses into Roma culture, featuring several authentically raw moments. Particularly compelling are the scenes involving the parents. These segments prompt viewers to question the lows a person must reach to voluntarily place their child in an orphanage. Interviews with people who have struggled to meet life’s demands—yet are still loved by their children—are among the strongest moments in Boršková’s documentary.

One shortcoming is the film’s lack of transparency. We encounter the subjects at unspecified intervals and locations, creating some confusion. While the film aims not to inundate the audience with factual data, opting instead to convey a sense of the characters’ life situations, a little context would have made their everyday realities more impactful. Nonetheless, “Passengers” will likely appeal to those interested in this grim yet socially significant subject matter.

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