It's Your Fault

It's Your Fault


Reviewed by: Paul Griffiths

Julieta’s (Erica Rivas) evening is ticking on, entertaining her two willful young boys Valentin and Teo (Nicasio and Zenón Galán), who just don’t seem to tire. She’s clearly exhausted and now her separated husband can’t pick them up as first arranged, but she still plays and showers them with kisses. Eventually, she tries to finish an important report for work the next day, amid the toys and DVDs littering the small flat. Despite her efforts, the kids’ playing worsens into shouting and rough-housing. When little Teo’s shrill scream brings the family bliss to an abrupt halt, Julieta worries that he could be seriously hurt and so bundles them all to the nearest hospital.

It’s late, the hospital is eerily quiet and Julieta’s unease mounts while they wait to be seen. When the doctor finally examines Teo, and then Valentin, he doubts Julieta’s explanations, instead suspecting her of abusing the boys. Physically and emotionally frazzled Julieta can hardly comprehend the events that could start spiraling her family away from her.

Generally, the less you know about a film beforehand the better, but with It’s Your Fault it pays to be aware of the looming inciting incident, or accident. Berneri swirls up the tension in the boisterous household with domestic familiarity until it's decidedly uncomfortable. You know something has to give and you're increasingly fearful of just how the situation’s going to snap.

This grip holds you as the drama unfolds, as if in real-time, with darker foreboding in the hospital. Berneri sustains this masterfully by having us almost exclusively experience the story from Julieta’s point of view. The picture is a claustrophobic, intimate jumble when the kids are tumbling over her, we only see them when she does and when she is alone in corridors and at windows, so are we. The terrific sound design is instrumental as well. We start with Julieta’s heavy, sighing breathing before anything else and this ties us to her character. Periodically her breath then rises to overwhelm other sounds around her, cutting us off from everything as her anxiety does the same to her.

As this continues into the third act we see it dawn on Julieta how the others, family and professionals, might be viewing her. As judgements are made, this forces a consideration for the perspective from which those reckonings are formed. Julieta, played excellently by Rivas (Tetro), is seen through the prisms of both a healthcare institution and the institution of marriage to a modern patriarch. Through these we see people actively and passively choosing how they want to see her, as she is seen reacting to or accepting the judgement and social identities being created for her. Berneri uses the visual motifs of windows, mirrors, reflections and her camera positions to reinforce the notion. Of course, a further prism is that of Berneri’s lens, providing a take on a working mother’s disquieting night, her contemporary family and the darker sides of her relationships.

We become less tethered to Julieta’s point of view as we approach Berneri’s downbeat, wonderfully enigmatic conclusion. At the very end the almost featureless screen throws It’s Your Fault at us, the title only seen as the final credits start to roll. It summarises the theme of accusatory responsibility well and also skillfully charges the viewer with a sense of accountability. As the film shows us, it’s sometimes easier to lay the blame on someone else rather than take time to understand what’s going on. In presenting the action equivocally, Berneri challenges us to not do that for once, or is admonishing us for having already done so. It’s a subtle, sudden ending that allows this tense, deceptively layered drama to resonate with you for sometime.

Reviewed on: 31 Oct 2010
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When a single mother takes her injured son to the hospital, the suspicions she encounters turn her world upside down.
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Director: Anahí Berneri

Writer: Anahí Berneri, Sergio Wolf

Starring: Erica Rivas, Nicasio Galán, Zenón Galán, Rubén Viani, Marta Bianchini

Year: 2010

Runtime: 87 minutes

Country: Argentina, France


SSFF 2010
London 2010

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