musical instruments are expensive, even for middle class professionals in Riga.
That is one reason Raimonds Krasts is reluctant to tell his perennially
stressed out OBGYN mother he lost his saxophone, particularly since it happened
during a bit of misdemeanor mischief. Each lie and evasion only makes matters
worse for Krasts in Jānis Nords’ Mother,
I Love You (trailer
a Dostoyevskian middle school morality play that screens as part of the 2014 Palm Springs International Film Festival’s focus on official Academy Award
submissions for best foreign language film.
is already tension between Krasts and his single mother, Silvia Krasta. She has
been secretly dating a colleague while supposedly working the late shift. Frankly, it is unclear how Krasts feels about
this, but there is no question Krasta is displeased with his behavioral issues
at school. She is also none too thrilled about his friend from the wrong side
of the tracks, Peteris Cepurnieks. The
son of a cleaning lady, Cepurnieks has swiped his mother’s key to a dodgy playboy’s
often vacant apartment, where they often hang out and steal pocket money.
things get particularly heated at home, Krasts runs off to the bachelor pad,
but cuts short his stay when the owner arrives with a prostitute. Unfortunately, the woman in question filches
his saxophone along with several other portable items from the flat. Predictably his attempts to retrieve it lead
to even more serious problems, because Krasts is still just a kid—one with particularly
though MILY did not make the Academy’s
nine film short list, it was smart choice for Latvia. As the winner of the Jury Award at this year’s
LA Film Festival, it would have had more credibility and perhaps recognition
among left coast Academy members than the average submission. Nords’ brand of sensitive naturalism is also
perfectly compatible with Academy tastes and preferences. Evidently, it was not to be, but it is still
an accomplished film. The work of cinematographer Tobias Datum is particularly
noteworthy for the way it captures the moody elegance and loneliness of late
throughout the film, thirteen year old lead-actor Kristofers Konovalovs holds
up to the scrutiny remarkably well. As
problematic as Krasts might be, he never comes across as a caricature. Instead, we can understand why he makes each compounding
mistake. Never overly showy, he could
teach a thing or two to some of this year’s supposed Oscar contenders.
the performance of Vita Varpina (one of two established screen actors in MILY) is smartly balanced and acutely
believable. Haralds Barzdins, the real life conductor for the Latvian Song and
Dance Festival adds some color as Krasts’ band director, but it is debatable
whether the film will do much to spur youthful enthusiasm for orchestral music.
There is indeed a lot of messy humanity in MILY.
Everyone makes mistakes, but nobody is irredeemable. It should be interesting for festival patrons
to watch the film in close dialogue with Kang Yi-kwan’s somewhat thematically
related Juvenile Offender. Nords never takes the easy way out, yet his
film is still considerably more optimistic.
Small but potent, Mother, I Love
You is recommended for those who appreciate coming-of-age character
studies. It screens this coming Sunday
(1/5), Monday (1/6), and the following Saturday (1/11) during the 2014 Palm
Springs International Film Festival.
Labels: Coming of age films, Latvian Cinema, PSIFF '14