Meet the mother of all mothers from hell: Cornelia (Luminița Gheorghiu), the controlling, overbearing, overpowering well-off Bucharest "lady who lunches", obsessed with running the life of her grown son Barbu (Bogdan Dumitrache) - to the point of alienating him and, in the process, eliciting disgruntled comments even from her husband. Cornelia, an architect turned set designer and interior decorator, won't stop at anything to make sure Barbu lives up to her expectations for him, even if he himself doesn't want to.

     As the unfortunately-titled but otherwise smart Child's Pose starts, she is about to have her opportunity to regain control over Barbu after he is involved in a tragic car accident in the countryside resulting in the death of a young boy. Cornelia immediately starts working the phones and her list of connections at the upper echelons of Romanian society to make sure Barbu's life is not destroyed by a jail sentence or even an admission of guilt, her protecting instinct meshing to perfection with her knowledge of all the backslapping alleys and handshake ways to get things done. But is this leftover way from the olden Communist days a one-off remnant or an atavistic, unshakeable character trait?

     Though directed by sophomore helmer Călin Peter Netzer with the traditional attention to actors that we have come to expect from the "Romanian New Wave", the true author of Child's Pose is screenwriter Răzvan Rădulescu, also responsible for scripting the films that made modern Romanian cinema's international reputation, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu and 4 Weeks, 3 Months and 2 Days. Child's Pose shares much with those films' blunt, merciless looks at a society whose present remains haunted and in the shadow of its dramatic past, but also offers some hope going forward as Cornelia and Barbu's relationship attempts to find some common ground as everything falls by the wayside to leave only the mother's incontrovertible, if misguided, love for her only son.

Retaining the tradition of strongly naturalistic acting and handling (with no original music score and a preference for character-driven tales), Mr. Netzer's film is however a more composed and more "edited" piece, depending less on long or one-shot takes. Yet another proof of the excellent filmmaking talent hiding in Romania, what raises Child's Pose above the competition is the superb performance from Ms. Gheorghiu, a veteran actress who here runs the entire cycle of emotions from cold-hearted control and hateful cynicism to pure and simple motherly despair with an almost uncanny precision. After all, hell hath no fury like that of a woman scorned.

Romania 2013
112 minutes
Cast: Luminița Gheorghiu, Bogdan Dumitrache, Natașa Raab, Ilinca Goia, Florin Zamfirescu, Vlad Ivanov
Director Călin Peter Netzer; screenwriters Răzvan Rădulescu and Mr. Netzer; cinematographer Andrei Butică (colour); designer Mălina Ionescu; costumes Irina Marinescu; editor Dana Lucretia Bunescu; producers Mr. Netzer and Ada Solomon, Parada Film in co-production with Hai-Hui Entertainment
Screened March 14th 2014 (distributor advance screening, Medeia Monumental 1, Lisbon)


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