Hallie Switzer and Alexander Gammal in ModraModra is the presentation of two love stories: one is the simpler admiration for a country or homeland, while the other is a far more complicated exploration of adolescent desire. The former is calming and mesmerizing, while the latter is a rollercoaster of emotions that only a teen could survive over one week.

Lina (Hallie Switzer) is 17 years old and lives in Toronto with her mother. For one week during the summer holidays, she plans to visit her extended family in Modra, a small town in Slovakia. When Lina is dumped by her boyfriend, she invites Leco (Alexander Gammal), a cute boy from school, to join her instead. Not long after arriving in Modra, Lina and Leco discover they have little in common. To make matters worse, Lina’s family mistakenly assumes they’re a couple. So far from home, they are forced to confront one another, setting off an unconventional romance.

The spontaneity of their adventure is much more than a whirlwind romance. In fact, it’s barely a romance at all. Though both characters make misguided attempts to steer their relationship in that direction, they are each seeking different things from their journey – Leco is trying to escape, while Lina is discovering herself and her heritage. However, they are both struggling with the limbo of being trapped somewhere between adulthood and childhood while being a full participant of neither world. Nonetheless, the pair manages to find most of what they’re looking for as well as forge a friendship based on the mutual understanding they eventually gain for each other.

Having casted her son Jacob Switzer in her previous tween love feature Only (which also played at TIFF in 2008), director Ingrid Veninger chose her daughter as the lead actress this time around. Though this may be a blatant example of nepotism at work, Switzer proves the selection is not unfounded. She appears to experience each event with the genuine awkwardness, confusion and determination that any teen in the same situations may feel. Leco is very dramatic, often magnifying minor incidents, resulting in extreme reactions. Gammal portrays his character’s uncomfortableness in a foreign country and certain circumstances convincingly, as well as his many melodramatic moments.

Veninger’s love letter to Modra (and Slovakia in general) is expressed through various, lovely landscapes. In addition, the teens explore the countryside, discover what the small town has to offer, and tour the sights of Bratislava. An interesting choice is the self-conscious, unrelated close-ups of Lina’s family members interwoven into the picture as we are introduced to them. More appropriately, some of the same shots are spliced in when Lina is saying goodbye to her family as if taking a snapshot for her memory bank.

Modra is a satisfactory portrait of a distant land and the heightened emotional chaos of two teenagers.

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