A wonderful thing happens to “Give Me Liberty” on its way to being a madcap comedy; it takes on meaning.

Not meaning in the sense of some articulated message or political stance. Meaning in the sense of human need, desire, empathy. It becomes a celebration and examination of life.

Which is fitting in that it begins with a funeral. Young Vic (promising newcomer Chris Galust) drives a medical transport van in Milwaukee. In the morning he wakes his senile grandfather, a Russian emigrant set to go to the funeral of another Russian emigrant with fellow Russian emigrants.

As he’s wheeling his first client of the day – a morbidly obese blind diabetes patient filled with complaints -- out to his van, Vic discovers the mourners have no ride to the funeral. So he loads the gaggle of bickering, none-too-appreciative elderfolk into the van. He’ll drop them off while doing his rounds.

For a while, this becomes Vic’s wild ride as the group ends up at a spirited talent show for the developmentally disabled, avoids police barriers (there’s been a race-related shooting), and attends the wrong funeral. Along the way Vic picks up a fiery wheelchair-bound ALS patient, Tracy (the spectacular Lauren “Lolo” Spencer), who reluctantly becomes part of the group.

The madcap energy continues – an opera recital, a con man, a rowdy wake. But there’s also a race riot, a sad alcoholic mother and the stark fact that most of these people are seriously damaged or old.

Still, they’re alive and a strong heart beats through writer-director Kirill Mikhanovsky’s film. Most of the characters here are not played by professional actors; they’re real human beings. And this looks a lot like real life: Pulsing, unexpected, vibrant, sad and joyous.

“Give Me Liberty”


Not rated

Running time: 110 minutes

Give Me Liberty (Not rated)

A young medical transport driver in Milwaukee juggles Russian emigrants, challenged clients and lost deadlines in his big-hearted comic drama. (110 minutes) Tom Long/Special to The Detroit News GRADE: A

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