Pawnshop – ★★★ 1/2 – Kinoteka 2023

Pawnshop – ★★★ 1/2 – Kinoteka 2023

A bittersweet documentary, Pawnshop shows that even in the most difficult of moments, kindness always prevails for a community – an unexpected treat of a film.

Wiesek runs Poland’s largest Pawnshop with his wife Jola. It used to be a profitable business, but times have changedand they are struggling – big time. Determined to find a way out, they tour the deprived neighbourhood and pitch a new idea that might help everyone – they launch an auction.

Looking quickly in from the outside, you wonder how Wiesek and Jola are still together, the constant battles to earn a bit of money coupled with how they seem like polar opposites. Jola waltzing around in a fur coat from the shop floor compared to the calm but manipulative presence of Wiesek. Yet, as the pawnshop continues, you begin to realise how strong a duo they are. No matter what, they are there for each other, and all the arguments in the world will not stop them from standing by the others side. They are stressed business owners, yes, but a loving couple first and foremost.

What strikes you is that this situation of a struggling shop in a struggling area is not unique to Poland or even anywhere else in the world. This is a universal story with albeit a very Polish twang, but universal, nonetheless. We understand that Wiesek and Jola want to make a profit to be successful, but they are also deep in the knowledge that if there is no one in the lower-income area to sell to, then what’s the point? Areas in cities across the world are struggling; this is just a prime example of it.

So for the couple to begin accepting the goods that the deprived people of the area are giving them, knowing full well that they are unlikely to be able to sell them, is an interesting narrative. They became a support hub for struggling families, and although they could barely keep their heads above water financially, they saw the need to help others. Be it giving a coat for someone to wear or being an ear for the neighbourhood to vent their woes to. The staff at the shop do their best to be there, but like all things, money problems are always a stone’s throw away. A quick bit of research shows this, coupled with an ever-decreasing trade and the pandemic, the pawnshop is not at all how it once was—another victim of a harsh climate.

Like their shop and neighbourhood, the couple continues on; they keep their head up, not wanting to be bowed by the financial pressures surrounding them. Proud and defiant, Pawnshop is an excellent documentary that is humorous as it is poignant.

★★★ 1/2

Kinoteka Polish Film Festival 2023 takes place in venues across London 9 March – 27 April.

For further information and tickets:

Other reviews from the festival so far!

Woman on the Roof 

Fucking Bornholm

Bread and Salt

The Hamlet Syndrome

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