Set in 1950s Sarajevo, this film portrays oppressive times in Tito's Yugoslavia as married official Mesha (Manojlovic) is sent to work in the mines as punishment for flirting with a sexy female comrade not his wife. Younger son Malik (De Bartolli) survives this period of uncertainty with a measure of hope and humor. He believes his father is off on business, as his long-suffering mother (Karanovic) has told him. When Dad returns from his lengthy trip, normal routines resume, with the master of the house a touch wiser and humbler.
Director Kusturica's triumph evocatively portrays a challenging time and place, and against this grim backdrop, goes on to paint a warmer portrait of childhood innocence and imagination, as the adorable Malik manages to put a hopeful, fantastic spin on circumstances and events unfolding around him. Manojlovic injects tremendous pathos into the character of Mesha, an all-too-human fellow caught in an inhuman system. A painfully honest, heartfelt work.