These Daughters Of Mine


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

These Daughters Of Mine
"Family drama this may be, but it's far from the heartwarming cliché, and it's not clear that anyone will be redeemed."

A sudden, serious illness is often the trigger for a family reunion, with people who have no interest in one another's lives suddenly crowding into the same space in order to perform the rituals of looking at the ailing person and saying deep things quickly in case they die. When their mother (Malgorzata Niemirska) suffers a stroke, sisters Marta (Agata Kulesza) and Kasia (Gabriela Muskala) begin fighting almost as soon as they get to the hospital. With a domineering father (Marian Dziedziel) into the bargain, the stage is set for some serious family strife.

It's a very nicely presented stage - few Polish films depict families living this comfortably, and, as it turns out, that comfort is part of the issue, with questions around inheritance lurking in the background, unutterable, as the two sisters try to convince themselves that, somehow, their parents will always be there for them. Each has her own spiritual angle on this which the other decries as nonsense. Marta is generally inclined to be cynical; as a television actress she's learned that aggression is a necessary component of getting what one wants. Kasia, by contrast, is fragile and emotional, but it's a mistake to see her as the nice one - she's an expert in passive aggressive technique and her seemingly genuine belief that the world has singled her out for unfairness makes her a formidable opponent.

Copy picture

Both women seem to have grown up accustomed to combat because of their father, who is also determined to get his own way about things, right down to the way they dress. Perhaps because of this, they both have a tendency to sanctify their mother. Niemirska is perfect as the comatose woman, a much more difficult piece of physical acting than many viewers will appreciate. Sometimes she's more animated than at others, and it's noteable that the more mannequin-like she becomes, the more her daughters tell her they adore her.

Family drama this may be, but it's far from the heartwarming cliché, and it's not clear that anyone will be redeemed. the glossy surface Andrzej Wojciechowski's cinematography is ironic in view of the family's inability to hide its fractures from anyone. When their father's health also begins to decline, the sisters are forced to confront the fact that things may never, in fact, go back to the way they were, but this renewed awareness of mortality only makes things worse. Engagement with the situation on a practical level masks panic on another.

This is Kinga Debska's first feature as a director, based on her own script, and it's technically very proficient. The narrowing of focus caused by the mother's illness, however, limits opportunities to develop the central characters, and sometimes it feels a bit too conventionally chalk and cheese. The quirky humour present in the first half of the film gradually fades in the second, and with it goes some of the film's personality. There's much to appreciate here but it feels as if Debska is still not quite sure what it is she wants to say.

Reviewed on: 08 Feb 2016
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Two very different sisters are forced to cooperate when their father becomes ill.

Director: Kinga Debska

Writer: Kinga Debska

Starring: Agata Kulesza, Gabriela Muskala, Marian Dziedziel

Year: 2015

Runtime: 88 minutes

Country: Poland


Glasgow 2016

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