SIFF Film Review – Win/Win
Though it shares a similar title to the recent American Paul Giamatti film, Win/Win, from the Netherlands and screening as a part of the Seattle International Film Festival, tells a very different story. Ivan, played by Oscar Van Rompay, works for a large financial services firm in Amsterdam. He begins by toiling away in obscurity on the lower floors of the office. However, he seems to have a natural ability to notice patterns in numbers, pricing, and market fluctuations. He gains notice by providing anonymous tips to the stock traders on the upper floors via Post-It note. One day, Stef, one of the top traders at the firm, recognizes Ivan’s abilities and takes him under his wing. Stef categorizes everyone he meets by how much they make and what kind of car they drive. Under his tutelage, Ivan becomes the brightest up-and-coming star on the trading floor. He quickly makes the company millions, and his new-found notoriety also catches the notice of the office receptionist, the lovely Deniz (Halina Reijn).
While Ivan always thought this was the life he wanted, he eventually discovers the cost of prosperity. He increasingly feels alienated. Initially making friends with the forthright Paul, a displaced Korean who is tasked with overseeing Asian markets for the office, he finds how his new “power” friends are in sharp contrast to Paul’s straightforward earnestness. Paul becomes the soul of the picture. That relationship ends in tragic circumstances. Because of his new pressures, Ivan eventually can’t sleep, can’t relate to other people, and becomes obsessed with his trading tasks. The film pivots on whether Ivan will choose success or his humanity.
A lot of this movie plays out like a less bombastic Dutch version of Wall Street. The young up-and-comer is mentored by a rich “player” at the top of his game. And then the dark side of success reveals what all of this greed does to those involved. This topic is still incredibly timely given the world’s current financial straits. And it is also a good reminder that seedy dealings in the world of stocks are not limited to us here in the States. Yes, these themes have been played out before in other films and TV as well, so there is a bit of a been-there-done-that feeling to the plot. But as long as the news keeps giving us headlines revolving around financial scandals, it seems we will be provided with an endless supply of these tales.
Enough cannot be said about the acting in this movie. The performances were universally understated and solid. Rompay as Ivan is heartfelt and awkward. Looking through him as a window to this world plays nicely to show us both nervousness and desire. And Reijn as Deniz is interesting, as she keeps the new girlfriend role from becoming stereotypical. In fact, one of the things that sets this movie apart is her reactions to Ivan’s changes. She isn’t just drawn to him because of his money. She seems to genuinely want a connection.
This is a solid film which is worth a look. It screens at the Neptune Theater in Seattle on Wednesday June 1 at 4:30 PM, and the Kirkland Performance Center on Friday June 10 at 7:00 PM as part of the Seattle International Film Festival.
Final Grade: B