Maven's Nest

Reel Life: Flick Pix

Like every HOA Board Meeting – but more amusing because it’s not yours

By Nora Lee Mandel

The Owners (Vlastníci)
Directed and Written by Jiří Havelka, based on his play The Society of Owners
Produced by Marek Jeníček
Czech Republic, Slovakia. In Czech with English subtitles
96 minutes. Not Rated
With: Teresa Ramba, Vojta Kotek, Klára Melíšková, Kryštof Hádek, Stanislav Majer, Pavla Tomicová, Ondřej Malý, Andrej Polák, Jiří Lábus, Ladislav Trojan, Dagmar Havlová, David Novotný, Jiří Černý, Maria Sawa
Release by Big World Pictures - Opens at Quad Cinema in NYC August 18; Opens at Laemmle Royal in Los Angeles August 25

Sure, a meeting of a co-operative apartment’s home owners’ association (HOA) in Prague can be an allegory for almost any stage capitalist society, almost anywhere. But the universality of personalities and intentions in Jiří Havelka’s debut film The Owners lets the audience have the distance to see the human comedy in their interactions.

Board Chair “Mrs. Zahrádková” (Teresa Ramba), a young mother on extended maternity leave, tries to move her agenda along by having her husband, formally called “Mr. Zahrádka” (Vojta Kotek), type the minutes on his laptop.

But “Mrs. Roubíčková” (Klára Melíšková) wields the by-laws like a weapon at every suggestion. Even counting attendance raises her hackles: “the Čermák brothers” (Kryštof Hádek and Stanislav Majer) introduce themselves as the businessmen inheritors of the apartment of their late, estranged father; the endlessly gossipy “Ms. Horvátová” (Dagmar Havlová) is surprised that the pregnant “Bernášek” newlyweds (Jiří Černý and Maria Sawa) have just bought one. “Mr. Švec” (David Novotný) doesn’t understand that in representing his elderly, hospitalized mother, he can only vote once.

To much negativity, ”Mrs. Procházková” (Pavla Tomicová) is renting out her apartment to African immigrants. She insists her administrator is the entrepreneurial “Mr. Novák” (Ondřej Malý).

”Mr. Kubát” (Jiří Lábus) constantly points out that things were different when he chaired the Board in the old days (he almost says make the “Society of Owners” great again), when there weren’t homosexuals like “Mr. Nitranský” (Andrej Polák) in the building. At least old “Mr. Professor Sokol” (Ladislav Trojan) seems to sleep through the financial accounting.

That’s just Act 1 – The Procedures. Their discussions intersect with images of the building’s pipes and ducts breaking down. The Chairwoman manages, with great difficulty, to push them towards considering capital improvements. Each resident’s selfish priorities get more and more revealed, to amusing effect.

But, soberly, one can presume their increasingly emotional arguments were like the board meetings of the Champlain Towers condominium in Surfside, Fl, in the years before it collapsed in 2021. Or a legislature debating infrastructure funding.

Could Robert’s Rules of Order be all that holds civil society together?


Nora Lee Mandel is a member of New York Film Critics Online. Her reviews are counted in the Rotten Tomatoes TomatoMeter:
Complete Index to Nora Lee Mandel's Movie Reviews

My reviews have appeared on: FF2 Media; Film-Forward; Lilith, FilmFestivalTraveler; and, Alliance of Women Film Journalists and for Jewish film festivals. Shorter versions of my older reviews are at IMDb's comments, where non-English-language films are listed by their native titles.

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