Review: Child’s Pose (2013)

1

childs_pose_2013_1


Cast: Luminita Gheorghiu, Bogdan Dumitrache, Natasa Raab
Director: Calan Peter Netzer
Country: Romania
Genre: Drama
Official Trailer: Here


Editor’s Note: Child’s Pose opens in limited release today, February 19th

Bedecked in furs, topped by a dramatic coiffure, shrouded in an air that screams affluence, the sexagenarian central character of Child’s Pose isn’t for her appearance alone eerily reminiscent of Arrested Development’s Lucille Bluth. She’s every bit as conniving, too, as she tears through the film like a hurricane floating favours and money before police and witnesses alike as she tries to relieve her adult son of manslaughter charges. It helps, of course, that he has all the adolescent agency of Buster. Of all the many achievements made by director Calin Peter Netzer in this, this third feature, perhaps the greatest is reconstituting the stuff of fast and furious family comedy in the trappings of bleak drama.

Gheorghiu is astonishing in her ability to forego the humanity with which she typically imbues her roles; there’s no trace here of the dejected refugee of Code Unknown, just a pretence and prissiness that might turn its nose skyward at the sight of such a soul.

childs_pose_2013_3Were the subject at hand not so dreadfully dark, we might well laugh at the demented machinations of this wicked woman. She is played by the great actress Luminita Gheorghiu, whose resume reads like a checklist of recent Romanian cinema’s greatest hits. Back here is the pragmatism of the paramedic she played in The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, albeit stripped of all its sensitivities. She begins the film bemoaning the names her son has called her after her latest attempt to influence his life; by the end, it’s become a little difficult to disagree with him. “Parents find fulfilment in their children,” she says at a key juncture, but it’s less fulfilment she’s out for than the feeling of control.

Gheorghiu is astonishing in her ability to forego the humanity with which she typically imbues her roles; there’s no trace here of the dejected refugee of Code Unknown, just a pretence and prissiness that might turn its nose skyward at the sight of such a soul. Yet such is the subtlety of Netzer’s approach that it might seem almost abrupt when we see some semblance of emotion in the film’s extraordinary final moments; its closing sequence is the cap to a characterisation masterclass, and the peak of a performance as pointed as a mountain range. This is where Netzer—along with co-writer Razvan Radulescu, a silent hero of Romanian cinema with a resume even more storied than Gheorghiu’s—elevates his film to a class of drama that makes the erstwhile action seem dull by comparison.

Netzer’s hectic handheld shooting, a typical trope of the school of Romanian cinema of which he’s here demonstrably a part, lends the film a docu-drama aesthetic that makes all the more unbelievable the injustice and insensitivity of the character’s carrying-on.

childs_pose_2013_4Which isn’t to say it is, of course; there’s an engaging audacity to the way in which this woman attempts to subvert the law, her conniving antics given dastardly weight by the wit of Netzer and Radulescu’s writing. It might be, often, quite callous to laugh at what’s unfolding onscreen, but that’s never to say it isn’t still funny, albeit in the kind of way that might set Joe Pesci shouting. Netzer’s hectic handheld shooting, a typical trope of the school of Romanian cinema of which he’s here demonstrably a part, lends the film a docu-drama aesthetic that makes all the more unbelievable the injustice and insensitivity of the character’s carrying-on. “You’re putty in her hands,” the son says of his father at one stage; as are we in Netzer’s.

That the victim is a child only makes bleaker and bolder the drama. Netzer has set himself a challenge here, asking us to follow a figure who’s entirely uncaring for the hurt she helps to prolong; that she talks of “coming down on the poor child” is almost incomprehensibly unaware. How indicative of their abilities, then, that by the conclusion Gheorghiu and Radulescu have recast her: Child’s Pose is less about asking us to excuse evil than merely to maybe consider its root cause, however perverted it might be. The class conflict and character clashes that constitute this drama, in the end, aren’t too much more than window dressing to a murky pane this movie slowly renders see-through.

[notification type=”star”]76/100 ~ GOOD. Child’s Pose is less about asking us to excuse evil than merely to maybe consider its root cause, however perverted it might be. [/notification]

Share.

About Author

Ronan Doyle is an Irish freelance film critic, whose work has appeared on Indiewire, FilmLinc, Film Ireland, FRED Film Radio, and otherwhere. He recently contributed a chapter on Arab cinema to the book Celluloid Ceiling, and is currently entangled in an all-encompassing volume on the work of Woody Allen. When not watching movies, reading about movies, writing about movies, or thinking about movies, he can be found talking about movies on Twitter. He is fuelled by tea and has heard of sleep, but finds the idea frightfully silly.