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Romanian Film 'Child's Pose' Is Impenetrable And Unengaging

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Child's Pose, last year's winner of the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival, has been sometimes favorably compared to another recent Berlinale winner, Asghar Farhadi's much lauded A Separation. Both are contemporary realist dramas that use specific domestic affairs to illustrate larger sociopolitical truths; but side-by-side the weaknesses of the Romanian film, the third by director Călin Peter Netzer, become exposed.

Veteran Romanian actress Luminița Gheorghiu (Code Unknown, The Death Of Mr. Lazarescu) plays Cornelia, a middle-aged, middle-class, busybody mother whose persistent meddling earns her the nickname "Controlia" by her husband. Her deadbeat son Barbu (Bogdan Dumitrache) kills a child while recklessly driving. Despite the fact that their relationship has deteriorated to the point where he doesn't even show up at her most recent birthday celebration, Cornelia is hellbent on using her wealth and political connections to keep her ungrateful son out of jail.

Where A Separation wove a complex tapestry of religion, politics, and class into a riveting and dynamic drama, Child's Pose turns what could be an inquisitive parable about post-Soviet society into a fairly mundane Oedipal drama. The toxic relationship between mother and child is so insular it can hardly be of interest to the viewer despite Gheorghiu's strong performance. The irritatingly shaky handheld camera only cheapens the impenetrable story and makes the film generally unpleasant to view. Child's Pose nails the landing in the final act—when Barbu realizes that he must take the first step towards repairing himself and his relationship with his mother if Cornelia refuses to change—but at that point you're left wondering where this grace had been for the previous hour and a half.

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Child's Pose opens tonight at the Nuart Theatre in West L.A.