Film Review: ‘Child’s Pose’

A mother's love: unconditional, or controlling?
February 18, 2014 Updated: February 18, 2014

“Child’s Pose” might be viewed as a family drama, but as it more than hints at a criticism of the nouveau riche, it strikes deeper moral notes.

Actress Luminita Gheorghiu, in a marvelous performance, portrays the sophisticated Cornelia, a successful architect, who reeks of power and entitlement. There is nothing she cannot have, she feels, primarily with the aid of money.

However, Cornelia’s greatest passion appears to be to create a close relationship with her 30-something son, Barbu (Bogdan Dumitrache). Barbu, on the other hand, has no use for her, and rejects her to the point of abuse. The more his mother draws close to him, the more he rebuffs her. Cornelia’s doctor husband Aurelian (Florin Zamfirescu) fades into the background; he has no chance against his own son.

Another fly in the ointment is Barbu’s close relationship with Carmen (Ilinca Goia), of whom Cornelia disapproves. After all, what woman could possibly take Cornelia’s place with Barbu?

However, the situation becomes crucial when, in a tragic accident, Barbu, behind the wheel of a car, runs down and kills a young boy, while indulging in road rage against another driver. Unfortunately, the other driver has clearly witnessed the event and might testify against Barbu.

Now Cornelia swings into action. Racing to the police station where Barbu is being held, Cornelia uses all her wiles—and influence—to convince the police to go easy on her son. A skilled manipulator, Cornelia succeeds in having Barbu released from custody.

Next, Cornelia must persuade the witness to “minimize” his testimony. But the witness (Vlad Ivanov, in a strong performance) shrewdly pushes Cornelia into a corner. How much is it worth, he questions, to keep her son out of prison, which would be Barbu’s penalty if he were convicted? Hush money is a small price, is it not?

The next step in Cornelia’s campaign is to visit the parents of the dead boy, to appeal to them to be forgiving of her son and not to press charges. Cornelia, for the first time, shows an element of humility. In an effort to persuade this couple, who are of a lower socioeconomic level, she goes into a litany of Barbu’s fine qualities (which have not been witnessed in the film). She seems truly moved as she tells her story of motherly love and filial devotion.

I found this a remarkable sequence, as I couldn’t tell whether Cornelia truly believed what she was saying, or whether it was an act, to make her point and succeed in her quest. But then, maybe she was always acting. The sequence certainly served to highlight the element of hypocrisy which runs throughout Cornelia’s behavior and in the general ambience depicted in the film.

Performances are excellent. The script is tight and gripping, as co-written by filmmaker Calin Peter Netzer and noted scriptwriter Razvan Radulescu, the latter co-writer of Cristi Puiu’s “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu” and other Romanian New Wave scripts.

“Child’s Pose” (the title seeming to have no connection with the material) won the Golden Bear (top prize) at the 2013 Berlin Film Festival and is the official Romanian entry for Best Foreign Language Film for the upcoming Academy Awards. It will have its U.S. theatrical premiere Feb. 19 at Film Forum in New York, prior to a nationwide release via Zeitgeist Films.

Diana Barth writes and publishes New Millennium, an arts publication. For information:

‘Child’s Pose’
Director: Calin Peter Netzer
Starring: Luminita Gheorghiu, Bogdan Dumitrache, Ilinca Goia, Vlad Ivanov, Adrian Titieni
Run Time: 1 hour, 52 minutes
Release Date: Feb. 19
Not rated
5 stars out of 5