Eye For Film >> Movies >> Tuesday, After Christmas (2010) Film Review
Paul (Mimi Branescu) is a happily married man with a problem. It wouldn't be such a big problem if he weren't so happily married. His lover, Raluca, isn't putting any pressure on him. Like most lovers, she would like to see him more often, but they both have busy careers. Neither is under the illusion that they'd enjoy a carefree life if they were together more offcially. Though he may seem to have a pretty comfortable life already with two women who adore him, it's really Paul who doesn't feel comfortable.
Conventional narratives always tend to simplify adultery. Radu Muntean's incisive film makes clear that the decision Paul faces - which one of these women to leave, over Christmas - is not only emotionally devastating, it's complicated. It's not simply the fact he doesn't want either to be hurt. It's not the matter of what will happen to his daughter, Mara. It is, perhaps most of all, the difficulty of interpreting and understanding his situation in a context where apparently clear social rules are full of hidden subtexts. Who should hate who? How can practicalities be managed if people are forbidden to speak to each other, and is that really what any of them want anyway? When troubled people act irrationally, who should take responsibility?
In addition to this, director Muntean smoothly weaves Paul's problem into a wider context. If his lies are one of the worst parts of his behaviour, what does that imply about the careful deceptions practised by the whole family as they try to preserve Mara's belief in Santa Claus? In Raluca's flat is a copy of the film 12:08, East Of Bucharest, known for its critique of popular assumptions about truth and memory. Can the different people in Paul's life fit their perspectives together to arrive at a shared realisation, or are they doomed to endless failures of communication? To what extent did a failure to communicate contribute to the developing distance between Paul and his wife?
Paul and his sister in law snipe at each other, then hug. His parents, clearly still happy together, criticise one another when apart. Mara (beautully played by rising star Ioana Blaj) bitches about how the girls at her school say nasty things behind her back. Face to face, everybody performs effortlessly; it is only Paul who seems to have forgotten his proper role.
Full of beautifully observed details, with intimately designed sets and thoughtfully framed shots backing up the excellent leading performances, this film succeeds in making a familiar subject feel fresh and new. It brings a blunt honesty to matters more often kept at a distance and the resulting tension is palpable. Intelligent dramas like this are rarer than the industry likes us to think. Seek it out.Reviewed on: 16 May 2012
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