Though melodramatic possibilities abound in this film--a mad, bad, dead mother, a frustrated poet, thwarted lovers, baleful grandparents muttering in the dialect of their origins, a precocious child, and an engagement party that may never lead to a marriage Zelda Hona tells this story of a young Sephardic woman gracefully and without sentimentality.
Though Lisa has not been married off at 13 like her mother had been, she has become a substitute mother to her family anyway. She is everyone's confidante and comforter, the one to be relied upon to arrange events or talk a jumper off the roof. But her writing talent presents her with the opportunity to escape the limitations of her culture. Will her poetry free her or merely chronicle her inescapable lot? In flowing verse she addresses her mother, attempts to communicate with her exhausted and silent father, and tries to resist the tug of her sister and brothers. The richness of the language is matched by the richness of the fabrics in this film, from the skirt that opens the film, to the tablecloths, carpets, wall hangings, curtains, tapestries, the opulence of the bejeweled and embroidered women's dresses, and the creamy nights and blue mornings of the village. The filmmaker weaves hands throughout the story, from the child's attempts to grasp the dancer's whirling skirt at the beginning, to the tender hands, the working hands, the hands raised in dance, and the hand that drives the poetry across the page, words she whispers in comment and explanation. In contrast to the lavish images and lush original score by Bardenashvili is the natural yet nuanced performance elicited from every actor, including non- speaking extras whose physical fit for their roles is remarkable. As both narrative and visual feast, Mother's Dance matches its lovely opening as it sets up its resolution: led by her defiant brother unto the dance floor, wearing her mother's dress, Lisa dances her mother's dance, letting her "look out of her eyes," admitting into herself the courage to accept her legacy and move beyond it.
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