60-year-old Cornelia (Luminita Gheorghiu) leads a life of privilege, social power and abundant wealth in contemporary Bucharest, but life is not perfect. More than anything in the world, she longs for her 34-year-old son Barbu (Bogdan Dumitrache) to reciprocate her unconditional love. But the pair barely speak, something the suffocating and domineering Cornelia blames on Barbu's live-in girlfriend, Carmela (Ilinca Goia). When Barbu is involved in a tragic car accident and runs down a child on a highway, Cornelia is thrust back into his life. Seeing her chance to regain control, she commences a frighteningly well-orchestrated campaign to save her son from prison. But Barbu, boiling with anger yet hopelessly emasculated and infantilised, refuses to play along.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
With its claustrophobic, handheld camerawork, Child's Pose is almost as suffocating as Cornelia (Luminita Gheorghiu), the well meaning but ultimately meddlesome mother, who also dominates her husband (Florin Zamfirescu, excellent), by the way. It's a showstopping performance by Gheorghiu, mostly because it is restrained; it is a well thought out characterisation of a woman who just lives and acts on her mothering instincts - which are awesome. That she is in a position of power and prestige, sufficient to pull strings and pay out when necessary makes her seem like a predator, not a mother.
It's not a one-woman show, but every other character, even the son Barbu (Bogdan Dumitrache) seems like a bit player. It's what Cornelia says and does that drives the story and holds our attention. Dumitrache is excellent in his minimalist way, the suppressed 34 year old man edging out, wanting to be free of his mother's iron 'my baby' embrace.
Ilinca Goia has a great role as Carmel, the girlfriend with her own toddler, who is the target of Cornelia's jealousy. She has one marvellous scene with Cornelia which is one of the highlights of the film for me.
The screenplay is driven by its dialogue, an almost endless stream of conversations, naturalistic and dynamic. Sometimes irritatingly, the handheld camera follows a conversation from one face to the other, and sometimes the dialogue gets too much.
Yet there is a quiet moment of contemplation when she stands alone in her kitchen, smoking (of course - she chain smokes) and having a drink. But this is where we sense her resolve and her self awareness best.
The title (a clumsily translation) will reveal its full meaning by the film's end, as the emotional resolution descends like a melancholy fog.
Some will find the abrupt ending ... well, abrupt, but it's an effective full stop, urging us to consider what we've seen and thought in the quiet gap between the last shot and the end titles music. What we've seen and thought may include the fact that perhaps most mothers would try and protect even their grown up sons, and that - like the tragic accident - everyone is at fault, yet no-one is guilty.
We may also consider the fact that director Calin Peter Netzer chooses not to show us that tragic accident, not even the lead-up to it. He does something more challenging and cinematic, having a tense and informative scene between Cornelia and the driver (Vlad Ivanov) who witnessed the accident, who was being overtaken by Barbu at the time. These are signs of a talented filmmaker willing to make his own way in the cinematic world.
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CHILD'S POSE (M)
CAST: Luminita Gheorghiu, Bogdan Dumitrache, Natasa Raab, Florin Zamifirescu, Ilinca Goia, Vlad Ivanov
PRODUCER: Calin Peter Netzer, Ada Solomon
DIRECTOR: Calin Peter Netzer
SCRIPT: Razva Radulescu, Calin Peter Netzer
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Andrei Butica
EDITOR: Dana Lucretia Bunescu
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Malina Ionescu
RUNNING TIME: 112 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Palace
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 15, 2014