Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5
Original Title: Pozitia copilului
Romania, 2013. Parada Film, Hai Hui Entertainement, HBO Romania, BV McCann-Erickson, Etno Media, Home Box Office, MEDIA Programme of the European Union, Odissey Communication, Real Top Media, Romanian Film Board, Soti Cable Neptun, Téléclub. Screenplay by Razvan Radulescu, Cãlin Peter Netzer. Cinematography by Andrei Butica. Produced by Cãlin Peter Netzer, Ada Solomon. Production Design by Malina Ionescu. Costume Design by Irina Marinescu. Film Editing by Dana Bunescu.
Bourgeois Bucharest architect Cornelia (Luminita Gheorghiu) is pulled out of the audience of an operatic performance by her sister, who has come to tell her that her son Barbu has been in a car accident. Barbu is fine, physically, but he was speeding on a country road near a village outside the city and he hit and killed a fourteen year-old boy, and is now in police custody. Cornelia goes to the station with all the bluster of the wealthy and entitled, instructing her son on what to write on the forms he has been provided, then puts her connections to use, calling a lawyer and getting as many of her own specialists onto the matter to keep her kid out of jail.
Barbu comes off as an unmotivated ne’er-do-well who has no particular purpose in life, living off his parents’ money and letting them clean up his messes, but as he expresses his disinterest in his mother’s help we learn that he bears an animosity towards her that actually gets in her way of getting him out of this very serious trouble. Cornelia’s difficult relationship with Barbu’s girlfriend Carmen doesn’t help matters either, but she plugs on with her plans; even after Barbu insults her and tells her to stop interfering, she meets with a witness to the accident and entertains the possibility of spending a great deal of money on turning the testimony her way.
Cornelia’s ultimate act is to visit the home of the deceased young man and meet with his parents, in theory to pay her respects and engender some sympathy from the injured parties, but meeting with them unexpectedly brings up all the contradictions that she has been avoiding, about her own feelings of pride and regret that have been stoking her involvement in her son’s affairs.
Taking part in the great tradition of anxious parents overcompensating for ungrateful children that goes all the way back to the glory days of Mildred Pierce, this powerful drama has plenty to say about class warfare and legal corruption, but it ultimately boils down to the very specific story of a woman’s bringing punishment upon herself for her own inability to see things clearly. Audience members expecting things to build to an explosive climax that metes out justice in a clean and satisfying manner will be disappointed, but those who love a good character study will be thrilled.
Ruling over it all is Gheorghiu’s inexhaustible performance, a masterful example of intense control that is intimidating and captivating without ever overplaying a single moment of her character’s unexamined entitlement.
European Film Award Nomination: Best European Actress (Luminita Gheorghiu)
Berlin Film Festival Award: Golden Bear
Toronto International Film Festival: 2013