Final Rating: 8.6/10
Director: Calin Peter Netzer
Actors: Luminita Gheorghiu, Vlad Ivanov
Genre: Drama, World Cinema
Child’s Pose: A yoga position that reflects on the visual vulnerability of humanity, and an infantile reflection of surrender. Two years ago, the Iranian film A Separation opened up world cinema to many people. With many films that have come out recently from around the globe, ranging from the Canadian film Incendies (2010) to last year’s Austrian drama Amour, those who usually do not dive into “foreign” films are slowly being introduced to them. The common connection is not that these films showcase serious situations in foreign locations, but instead that they feature, well, serious situations. Incendies deals with the suffering a mother went through to survive, Amour presented us with the ultimate test of love as an elderly retired man takes care of his wife who is slowly shutting down. A Separation, on the other hand, dealt with a more common issue (divorce), only in a foreign area to many viewers and with more and more problems piling up. Nonetheless, it still hit close to home because it is something many people have faced, whether they have been divorced or have been affected by divorce.
I mention A Separation because these kinds of hard hitting world films are suddenly being opened up to the world because of films like it, despite there being many films of the like for many years (remember when a film like Two Women was world renown even with casual movie goers? It’s finally happening again!). Case in point; Child’s Pose is a film that follows the same kind of formula and, unsurprisingly, is a film that faces every issue face first. An adult man accidentally kills a child because he was driving recklessly. He is then faced with the response of those around him in regards to how he should defend himself and what he should do. Now, this man is not the main character in the movie. It is in fact his mother, played by Luminita Gheorghiu in a ruthless performance that can be compared to the conniving and protective ways of Jacki Weaver’s character in Animal Kindgom; They both mean well, but they sometimes do the wrong things because of compassion and maternal love. Gheorghiu’s character certainly doesn’t carry out Weaver’s extremities, but at the same time, it is the way she talks instinctively that marks her as more than just a caring one but, perhaps, a mother that cares too much and is thus a bit of a monster. Nonetheless, we still care about her despite her desperate measures to take control because we are often reminded that it is because she cares and she does not want to see her son disappear.
Like the films mentioned earlier, Child’s Pose is very reliant on its native land, and it’s Romania in this film. We are treated to the odd Romanian custom and party to start the film off, and then we are brought back to a home, the mall, and other social universal areas to remind us that, hey, this could have been anywhere in the world. What makes it distinctively Romanian, however, is how the son often finds himself battling with his mother to be an independent adult and not someone’s child. This spits in the face of tradition, as it speaks against the homely old-fashioned ways of many European families, despite the act of being smothered being a familiar problem to many worldwide. Here it is amplified because one should seek help during such a difficult time, and here the son is pushing everyone (especially his mother) away.
The movie is shot with what is supposed to resemble a handicam and with as little music as possible (all sounds are diegetic and within the scene), so the movie clearly wants to be realistic. It succeeds with bringing you into each scene, as it focuses on random people walking around, various objects and at its subjects very close up much like a wandering anxious eye. The movie works well with subtle imagery as well, not dispelling the illusion that this is all real. A nice scene is when Gheorghiu’s character is being shown how the accident occurred by small objects, including a phone as one car and a cigarette pack as her son’s car. The ashtray depicting the scene of the accident, being trumped by her putting a cigarette butt into the ashtray, is a very powerful statement on her authoritative status and her blindness to reality. There are a number of small metaphors laced in the film, and each one adds to the poetic nature of the film.
This film moves quickly, trudging along with slow scenes but with big enough steps to lunge the story forwards and never wallow in a single miserable place. The movie climaxes with a very emotional ending that charges the feelings of everyone watching. And then it ends. It just ends. Much like reality, and its events that come and go. It ends suddenly without enough time for us to come back down to Earth and gradually hype ourselves to pull through a tough situation. On a literary level, it works perfectly, as the questions that needed to be answered are. On an aesthetic level it works brilliantly as it is possibly the biggest shock of our emotions, having these people we are finally forgiving being yanked away from us. On a personal level, it may not agree with everyone, and that is the sole issue with the movie. A Separation, without spoiling, is left with an unanswered question, and it leaves you with something to think about and thus reanalyze and rediscover the movie and just how layered it is. Child’s Pose shuns you and leaves you in the streets, which is both perfect for the feeling of the movie but also renders it difficult to revisit anytime soon.
Apart from that, it is a wonderful addition to this new wave of world cinema that brings many realistic issues to light. It is just as pummeling, just as poetic, and just as shocking as many films of its kind. It went on to win the Golden Bear award at the Berlin International Film Festival and it made its way to the Toronto International Film Festival, and for good reason. It is a bold film that deserves to be seen. Just don’t expect it to be as forgiving of you as you are of its characters.