Dir: Ioana Uricaru | Cast: Mălina Manovici, Steve Bacic, Dylan Scott Smith, Milan Hurduc, Ruxandra Maniu | Romania, Canada, Germany | Drama | 88 min
Ioana Uricaru directs this absorbing immigration truth-based drama from a linear script she co-wrote with Tatiana Ionascu and with the support of Palme d’Or winner Cristian Mungiu and Canadian finance. Exposing the often ugly corrupt and officious underbelly of US officialdom, it follows Mara, a nurse from Romania, who marries one of her patients (Daniel/Dylan Smith) while on a working visit the USA, and tries make her new life with her husband 3 year old son legal and above board. With a sensitive central performance from Mălina Manovici whose winning personality as Mara makes for an absorbing watch, this intelligent film conflates a New Wave drama with a taut psycho-thriller, managing its tonal shifts with surprising dexterity.
When the police ask Mara if Romanian is an Arabic language, you realise the depth of ignorance we are dealing with is ludicrous. But this is not the worse part: Mara’s aggressively inappropriate immigration official (a sleazy Steve Bacic from TV’s Arrow) asks her for a blow-job; and during a hospital visit, she is give an injection without her consent “because it’s free”. Yet the arm of the law comes down heavily when she leaves Dragoš alone in the appartment. It then emerges that her husband Daniel has a ‘criminal record’ from abusing a minor. Despite all this Mara presses on obdurately remembering the Romanian saying: “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. Luminously lensed by Friede Clausz, this is a well-paced debut that doesn’t overstay its welcome, from a talented female team. MT
BERLINALE 15 -25 FEBRUARY 2018 | PANORAMA