For most of the two decades that we follow him, René is in prison. After each stint behind bars—a few months here, a few years there—he has to pull his life together again. Helena Třeštíková started filming René when he was a teenager in 1989, as part of a project about juvenile delinquents. She kept on following him for 20 years, through all the great upheavals taking place in his homeland of the Czech Republic, which mainly reach René by way of the TV in his prison cell.
René’s dreary but calm life in jail contrasts with hectic scenes of the freedom outside. Once he gets out, he does his best to stay on the straight and narrow, but each time he loses his way again. While René is locked up, Třeštíková is often the lifeline that connects him with the world beyond his cell: his letters to her, which he reads out loud, are a leitmotif through the film. She convinces him that he should become a writer. The bond between filmmaker and subject may not be an easy one—even Třeštíková isn't safe from René’s thievery—but it's always the tempestuous, beating heart of this superb film.