directed by Calin Peter Netzer
Opens in NYC on February 19; opens in L.A. on February 21
Here is a mother celebrating her six decades on Earth. The film opens with her
kvetching to her best friend. There are many things about her only son that she's not thrilled about 行 well, his live-in girlfriend,
mostly. It's all because her wonderful boy has hooked up with the wrong woman that he is not treating his mother as well
as he should. A common enough displacement.
The mother誷 (Luminita Gheorghiu) world is turned upside down when the
son she adores hits and kills a teenager on a rural stretch of highway. But she doesn't take it on her back, not even sitting
down. The initial shock subsiding, she springs to action, supervising her son even as he gives his initial statement to the
local police officers. If it turns out her son was at fault, it would mean a prison term. Her objective is to keep him out, no matter what.
The son (Bogdan Dumitrache), about to finish his studies, is understandably shaken,
especially after being threatened with violence by the dead boy's uncle. The mother takes over, coaxing him to move back in "for
a while" (a triumph!). It isn't long before, however, that we realize that he is really as unpleasant as her first complaint. And perhaps
not just when he is under his girlfriend's thumb.
Theirs is a conflict as old as the sun. She is motivated by her love of her son.
Nothing can stop her in her quest to keep her son's future, and her world that revolves around him, from collapsing. In one
amazing scene, the mother meets the witness of the accident, with the intent of persuading, or more likely bribing, him to testify
in her son's favor. I cannot give you more because it would be a spoiler, but I can tell you that it's a scene that astonishes, and alerts
you to why the film won the Golden Bear at Berlin: its generosity of spirit.
And that's not the end of it. The mother continues her love-bulldozing.
The more she pushes, the less reason we have to like the son, who continues to act like a big baby. Granted, he is under
severe stress, but to treat his mother like that? Even his girlfriend (Ilinca Goia) paints him a coward, confiding in the mother
who is supposed to be her enemy.
We are about to write off the son as hopeless as he and mother and girlfriend
drive to a big showdown with the dead boy's parents. The outward business is to offer to do the only decent thing, to pay
the funeral costs. But the real reason is to ask for forgiveness. A flood of tears 行 onscreen and in the theater 行 ensues.
The mother's pleading melts our hearts and the dead boy's mother's,
who invites her to the funeral. I couldn't cry, though, because she launches into a character defense of her son 行 "He's a good boy" 行
and follows it up with memories of her happy motherhood. All mothers' loves are selfish. But if someone started doing that in
my house after running over my son, I would cleave the bitch's skull with the nearest kitchen implement.
Throughout the mother誷-son's ordeal, we follow this headstrong woman,
experiencing the events through her eyes: There is the bureaucracy that hasn't seen much improvement since the Communist
era. There are the city-dwellers that became the middle class in the last quarter of a century. Then there are the "simple"
people out in the country, apparently left behind by the times, in a setting right out of Tsarist Russia.
I find myself wondering if it was this contrast between the privileged and the
less fortunate that had burnt through my retinas and prevented me from crying with Mother.
行 Rika Ohara