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Raúl de la Fuente,
Vergil J. Smith,
Kaleidoscope of issues around domestic violence, and balancing work vs home. Expect an unusual way of story telling, probably puzzling unprepared viewers but rewarding
Saw this at the Berlinale 2019. This movie shows a kaleidoscope of issues. Apart from a central role of domestic violence in this movie triggering most developments, there are also underlying issues around the degree of being passionate for your job and how much you want to sacrifice in favor of your family and related domestic tasks. These are cleverly mixed to demonstrate there are always two sides.
On one hand, there is Simon forseeing problems when he would pressure his employer to have Fridays off, after which Mette suggests him to find "another job where you can". Simon reacts with a puzzled and confused look, lacking the proper words to say that she does not understand anything about his line of work. Later, as part of a hefty discussion, she belittles his work as "finding an efficient way to operate a steamroller" (Simon works for a road builder). Most people will recognize similar debates from their own situation or others in their neighborhood.
On the other hand, Mette takes her work literally home when she finds that Miller does not get sufficient help from the support group where Mette's previously worked. Mette feels an urgent need act on Miller's problems with her violent partner cq ex-boyfriend Frank. When husband Simon is away for a week, she takes Miller home. This "solution" starts off very well in the beginning, but it is bound to have unexpected consequences. Mette's and Simon's job passions are very different ar first sight, yet very similar in that everything must make way for solving a job-related problem, at the expense of a safe and peaceful family life. Neither, each in their own way, cat let go of problems at work.
Contrary to many reviewers I found the story not overly puzzling. I must admit that I was prepared for a non-linear way of story telling, saving me lots of confusion (I think) during the screening. I cannot deny, however, that I missed more than a few clues and hints. For example, Frank is the one bad guy in all story lines, which can only be deduced in hindsight from an unobtruvise remark in the beginning. That is the moment when Miller tries to convince Mette that they both should work together to press charges against Frank, because he is both her violent ex-boyfriend as well as the causing Mette's injuries and her subsequent recuperation after obvious serious injuries. The connection between these two problems that Frank seems to have caused, becomes clear after the screening when talking to others who have seen the same movie and thereby picked up very different hints that I did.
One can wonder whether the non-linear way of story telling contributed anything to the viewer experience. Was it only a gimmick, an experiment, something to let reviewers chew on?? The recitative singing voice that surfaces every now and then, may be intended as an extra form of subtitling, to point out what happened at the moment. It missed me all along, partly as the words were not always understandable, partly due to being not aware that the voices might have been an important aspect of the way this story was told. So, though being prepared on one hand for the time shifting way of story telling due to having read the announcement on the Berlinale website, I still was not aware that the sound track was in some way significant.
All in all, even when missing part of the story line due to frequent time shifting, the issues are very recognizable. Finding a balance between work and home is an important one, next to the problems with domestic violence that move the story forward. I found the acting very convincing, particularly the scenes in the rehab center. Mette obviously had severe problems with talking, apart from visible scars (including a large one showing through her hair, apparently from brain surgery). She needed help for even basic tasks, like eating. Frequently in her circle was a cynical and obstinate co-patient, named Klaas, bringing life to several scenes that would otherwise have left us depressed. The scenes where these two were in, inside and outside the rehab center, emphasized the unfavorable situation such patients were in, each very different but all showing only very little progress, with some ups and many downs, regardless of the obvious care and help they got. Also, visits from family and friends were well-intended but not always helpful.
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