Cloudy Times


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Cloudy Times
"What makes Ullón's film stand out is the poignancy of its personal journey."

Arami Ullón's debut documentary is an intensely personal consideration of her relationship with her Paraguayan mum Mirna as they face tough questions about care in old age. With many countries now facing the facts of ageing populations, it's a subject that has become a hot topic across the world and most film festivals these days seem to carry at least one film on the subject.

What makes Ullón's film stand out is the poignancy of its personal journey. The filmmaker had been living in Switzerland up until the point at which her mum's housemaid Julia - who had also been taking on increasing amounts of caring duties as Mirna's Parkinson's worsened - was beginning to find it tough to cope. Returning to Paraguay, the situation brings to the fore not just questions regarding Mirna's illness in the present but a cluster of ghosts from the past, as the two women consider the impact that Mirna's epilepsy had on her daughter when she was much younger and the issues of guilt this raises all round. It's noticeable that Mirna frequently refers to her daughter as "Mama", with the sense that the mother and daughter positions have long been reversed.

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Tough choices have to be made and while they are partially based on emotions they also come down to cash. It's a situation that will resonate with many people facing care costs. Those who have had to resettle a loved one into residential care will no doubt find Ullón's "home hunting" process also strikingly familiar, as she grapples with her mother's very real needs in the face of fragile health at the same time as fighting the emotional issues of guilt and concern about 'the right thing to do' that this sort of thing inevitably throws up.

Ullón and her family are remarkably open about the siutation and cinematographer Ramón Giger strikes a good balance, recording the intimacy of the mother-daughter relationship and the complexity of their emotions without being overly intrusive. Both women's stoicism is captured but also their fragility and Giger's unfussy style never labours either point. The editing by Mirjam Krakenberger could benefit from being slightly tighter in places - perhaps a few less shots of curtains billowing in the wind - but she deserves credit for her relaxed approach that never seeks to over-emphasise emotional moments, which are all the more powerful for that.

Reviewed on: 13 May 2015
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An intensely personal consideration of how we care for our parents in old age.

Director: Arami Ullón

Year: 2014

Runtime: 92 minutes

Country: Switzerland, Paraguay


Karlovy 2014

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