Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Tribeca ’16: Mother
in America, we believe in mom, baseball, and apple pie. In Estonia, it would be
something like ema (mother), cross-country skiing, and kissel. Respect for
motherhood might be a cultural constant, but Elsa Vaaring is still feeling
pretty unappreciated. She quit her job to care for her incapacitated grown son
Lauri, only to learn he was probably shot due because of some dodgy dealings he
was mixed up in. Family relationships will be strained in Kadri Kõusaar’s Mother (trailer here), which screens during the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival.
course, Vaaring is stuck serving as Lauri’s primary care-giver, because you
would hardly expect her husband to be helpful. To be fair, he never shirks
yard-work, but he clearly cannot deal with the reality of their son’s waking
coma. At least, Lauri has a fair number of visitors, but some are
inappropriate, like the student with an obvious romantic interest in her now
catatonic teacher, while others are more interested in looking for the large
Euro cash withdrawal he made shortly before the shooting incident.
there is one visitor she is always happy to see. That would be Aarne Männik, Lauri’s
principal, who has secretly been carrying on an affair with the married Vaaring.
On the other hand, she is always wary when Lauri’s sleazy childhood friend Riin
pops in. The local copper also turns up quite regularly, hoping to solve Lauri’s
case to redeem for his failure in the big city.
you must call Mother something, “domestic
thriller” would probably suffice, but it is weirdly restrained. Even if you
guess who is up to what, the subtlety of Kõusaar’s approach will cause you to
second guess yourself. Still, there is something quite evocative and
provocative about the ominous undercurrents flowing beneath the surface of this
ostensibly neighborly small town, as if it were all the product of David Lynch
on his very bestest behavior.
is no question Mother is a showcase
role for Tiina Mälberg and she makes the most of her moment. However, much to
our slack-jawed shock, Andres Tabun sort of steals the film with his heavy
third act scene as the befuddled father. Similarly, Jaan Pekh slyly toys with
audience expectations as the vaguely Colombo-ish copper.
Mother Vaaring and her son, Mother is
largely confined to one location, but Kõusaar shepherds the large cast of
characters in and out so dexterously, it never feels stagey. It is a quiet,
buttoned-down film, but it is roiling on the inside. Recommended for fans of
Sirk and Losey, Mother screens again tomorrow
(4/16), Monday (4/18), and next Friday (4/22), as part of this year’s Tribeca.
Labels: Estonian cinema, Tribeca '16