All For My Mother (2019) **** Kinoteka 2020

November 6th, 2020
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Małgorzata Imielska | Cast: Zofia Domalik, Maria Sobocińska, Malwina Laska, Adam Cywka, Dobromir Dymecki; Poland 2019, 104 min.

After repeatedly escaping from her orphanage, 17-year-old Olka (Zofia Domalik) is moved to a youth detention centre. With bitten fingernails and scarred arms, the teenager has no desire to ingratiate herself with the guards, like the other girls. She just wants to trace her mother.

All For My Mother – a probing exploration of our most visceral bond – won awards at the Gdynia Polish Film Festival and Warsaw Film Festival and will be screening at this year’s online Kinoteka Polish Film Festival, re-scheduled from March.

In her first feature him Imielska depicts a staggering brutal picture of Polish institutional life in hyper-realism that spares the audience nothing. Confined to a prison-like reform centre Olka’s only desire is to escape. She has been looking for her mother for years, and the endless search has become an obsession. Bullied by the other girls – particularly Agnes (Sobocinska), who calls Olka’s mother a whore – she also meets Mania (Laska), whose mother has killed her abusive father and is serving time. 

After another attempt at escape Olka is sent away to foster parents in the countryside. Irena (Budnik) and Andrzej (Budnik) are a dysfunctional couple constantly at war with each other. When Olka is in the barn feeding the rabbits, Andrzej attacks and rapes her brutally. She runs away, but Andrzej catches up with her promising to help her find her mother. But this is just a ploy, and the girl is subjecting to further abuse when the police arrive. 

Ola is completely disempowered by a system set up to help her and women like her. Eventually one of the therapists supports her case but Olka has given up hope and runs away again after the principal finally divulges her mother’s address in Szczecin. The search will be a grim and disheartening one, sending Olka to the depths of despair.   

This is a heart-breaking film to watch and viewers will be staggered by the seemingly lawless vacuum in Poland, where women are treated as fair game by men and institutions alike. DoP Tomasz Naumiuk pictures a bleak and post-industrial wasteland where the material poverty is on a par with the soulless behaviour of the authorities. An utterly compelling feature, which asks fundamental questions. AS

Showing as part of KINOTEKA – The Polish Film Festival in London,

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