Finding Your Inner Mench: A Review of the “Human Resources Manager”

Mark Ivanir as the Human Resources Manager with the late Yulia Petracke

Mark Ivanir as the Human Resources Manager with the late Yulia Petracke

On Wednesday, prior to getting on a flight from Philadelphia to Minneapolis, which was part of my journey back to Los Angeles, I had an opportunity to watch The Human Resources Manager. I originally saw the movie back in 2012, and I found myself thinking about it a lot in recent weeks. 

You may not have heard about The Human Resources Manager before, which is a shame because it is a delightful story. Filmed in Jerusalem and Eastern Europe, the majority of the dialogue is in Hebrew and Romanian with a smattering of English, so subtitles are a given. 

The story follows the Human Resources Manager of a large industrial bakery. The Manager, who is left unnamed like most of the characters, is having a rough time in his life. A gifted business operator for the bakery, the Manager took the Human Resources position to be closer to his wife and daughter, but it hasn’t helped. Disconnected, discontented and aloof, the Manager can’t quite connect with himself or those around him.

Then a PR crisis hits the bakery. A young woman named Yulia Petracke had emigrated to Israel and had worked briefly at the bakery before being a victim of a suicide explosion in a marketplace. When no one claims her body, a local tabloid reporter prints a story blaming the bakery, and specifically the Manager. To the resolve the crisis, the bakery’s owner tells him that he needs to return the deceased Yulia to her family in a tiny village in Eastern Europe, he initially balks. He’s failing at everything he’s doing and now he is being punished by being the mortuary attendant to a woman he never met. 

Scene from THE HUMAN RESOURCES MANAGER (1).jpg

What follows is a bizarre road trip as the Manager leads a small collection of oddballs on a journey through blizzards, bureaucrats, and old Soviet military bases, in each case trying to find a way to complete his journey and return home. As the story progresses, we begin to suspect that the trek and the struggles our characters endure may not have been entirely by chance. 

The story is based on the book A Girl in Jerusalem by A. B. Yehoshua, but the movie is rooted in the performance of Israeli actor, Mark Ivanir. His portrayal of a man who is trying to do the right thing even when he doesn’t know why speaks volumes. I find it is the questions that we occasionally have to ask as we get older. What do we do when who think we should be isn’t who we are? How do we bridge the gap between what is expected of us and what fulfills us? How do we find our way again when we’re lost? Sometimes, the answer is doing a good deed or going on a trip or helping those that are grieving get closure. In the Human Resource Manager, it’s all three. 

SHOULD YOU WATCH THIS MOVIE - Yes, definitely! Subtitles aren’t for everyone, but the performances are great, the pacing is spot on and you’ll find yourself laughing at the many subtle moments (only a few of them involving coffins).