Jan Sverák, the Czech director of the Oscar-winning "Kolya", returns with another film that examines his country's turbulent 20th century history through its minor characters, relying on a similar mixture of humour and pathos.
Ondrej Vetchý is impressive as the stoic Franta, a pilot imprisoned in communist Czechoslovakia after spending World War Two with an RAF squadron in England.
Through flashbacks, we see his escape from home after Nazi invasion in 1939, taking with him his wide-eyed protégé Karel (Hádek).
Joining a squadron across the Channel, the duo have a high old time training on bicycles and getting their heads around our idiosyncratic language. But when Karel crash-lands near the house of rural wife Susan (Fitzgerald), whose navy spouse is missing in action, he and Franta find their friendship put under strain by a competing attraction for her.
Sverák contrasts the miserable grey hues of Franta's post-war prison with the bright colours of a life in the clouds above Britain. The pilots fly over yellow meadows and green woods, and through blue skies, albeit while dog-fighting with the Germans. Even when Karel goes down in occupied France, he lands in a hayfield containing helpful, pretty peasant girls.
More sombre notes are touched on as the love triangle develops and pilots start dying, with the thought constantly in the background that all their sacrifices will lead only to persecution after the war.
However, the script by Sverák's father Zdenek - not a million miles from the "over sexed, over here" theme of John Schlesinger's 1979 pic "Yanks" - has a lightness of touch that makes for relatively uncomplicated viewing.