It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
In the middle of the night on a back road of the Czech Republic, two truck drivers unload a group of illegal immigrants from India. Then they drive away, unaware that they still have a passenger -- a baby, left behind in the confusion. Should they try to return the infant to its mother? No, because they don't know how to find her without risking arrest. Should they dump the baby by the roadside? One thinks that would be a good idea, but the other doesn't, and they end up selling the baby to the owners of a shady pawnshop.
This opening sets up one of the story lines in "Up and Down," a Czech film about working-class and middle-class characters, former and present wives, infant and grown children, current and retired soccer fans, professors and hooligans, criminals and the police. Director Jan Hrebejk and his co-writer, Petr Jarchovsky, are interested not so much in making a statement about their society as seeing it reflected in specific lives; in this, their film resembles the early work of the Czech director Milos Forman ("The Fireman's Ball"), whose son Petr plays one of the film's leads.
The first couple we meet after the pawnshop are the Fikes, Mila and Franta (Natasa Burger and Jiri Machacek). They're not very bright, but not bad people. He's a night watchman, sensitive about his cleft palate, grateful to his wife for having dinner with him, even though "I eat ugly." He's a member of a soccer team's fanatic group of supporters, who meet to watch the games on TV, get drunk, sing, chant slogans and go through the emotional yo-yo of victory and defeat.
Mila desperately wants a baby. She can't conceive. They can't adopt, because Franta has a police record (he blames the soccer club for leading him into hooliganism). After almost stealing a baby in its carriage, she's afraid: "I'll do something and they'll arrest me." The baby at the pawn shop is a godsend. They buy it, bring it home and love it. When Franta's booster club buddy makes racist remarks about the baby's dark skin, Franta boots him out, resigns from the club and joins his wife in loving the baby.