Screened as part of NZIFF 2013
Featuring one of the year’s standout performances, the Golden Bear winner is a hair-raising tale of motherly love laced with black humour and bitter political satire. A compellingly appalling addition to cinema’s gallery of scary mothers, Bucharest socialite Cornelia (Luminița Gheorghiu, in her first starring role) is bent on doing whatever it takes to keep her only son, 34-year-old Barbu, from prison. She’d like to keep the wretched boy out of the clutches of his new single-mum girlfriend too. Poor Barbu was speeding to pass another car when he hit and killed a teenage boy crossing the highway. Once Cornelia gets busy, the chances of Barbu’s facing justice appear to diminish with every well-placed call; police, officials, witnesses, she’s got them all sorted. Only one man might yet thwart her campaign to save her boy: the boy himself.
Director Călin Peter Netzer co-wote his film with Răzvan Rădulescu, co-author of the unforgettable The Death of Mr Lazerescu. This film has the same expert way of turning the institutional dysfunction of the new (very old) Romania into a fascinating narrative labyrinth. Using a vérité camera style, Netzer tracks Cornelia from the swanky environs of her own 60th birthday party, via pokey police stations and bureaucratic cabinets, to the kitchen table of the poor, bereaved family she is intent on frustrating.
“More than anything else, it is Gheorghiu’s un-self-conscious, realistic character study of the emotional tyrant Cornelia that keeps the engine running on a compactly written drama… Netzer is warm and confident directing the stunning performance.” — Deborah Young, Hollywood Reporter