Children are full of dreams and aspirations of making our world a better place. This German language film, Mission Ulja Fun (2021), lets you temporarily set aside your scepticism and experience the world of one such kid. It is about Uja, a 13-year science prodigy who faces mixed responses to a scientific discovery from her community and family. Movies like this show how a simple one-liner can be turned into a fun road-trip film. I give Mission Ulja Funk a mangoidiots Ripe rating for its effort to talk about the kids’ world and its message of hope.
Uja is the daughter of hard-working but supportive parents. The three of them are forced to live with their conservative grandmother due to their financial position. In a local church event, Uja mentions the theory of evolution and hell breaks lose. Following this, she faces hurdles from her grandma and their local pastor. Around the same time, Uja discovers a tiny asteroid is going to hit a village in Belarus in two days’ time. Without the support of her family, Uja decides to drive down to Belarus from her town in Germany with her friend Henk. They set off on a road trip in a stolen hearse, and they face many challenges along the way.
The conflict between Uja and her grandmother is a classic coming-of-age story. Uja is trying to find her own way in the world, and her grandmother is trying to keep her in the past. There is an undercurrent of differences in the historic worldview of Eastern and Western Europe. The scene where Uja is shown to be running a profitable enterprise supplying homework assignments for other students was hilarious, for example, one of the students asks her for assignment copies for all the subjects he is studying, and Uja responds to that by saying “If the teacher finds you suddenly doing great in all subjects it will rise suspicion and affect my business“.
The screenplay follows Uja and Henk on their road trip, and it shows the challenges they face as they try to reach the village in time for the asteroid. It is a story about the power of science, the importance of family, and the courage of one young girl who was willing to stand up for what she believed in. The movie does a great job of capturing the world of a 13-year-old Uja who was a relatable and likeable character, and you can’t help but root for her.