No Home Movie, the final work from the great Belgian director Chantal Akerman, depicts her mother's last months on earth. There's no melodrama, because that wasn't Akerman's way, but rather a dispassionate depiction of a genial octogenarian going about her day-to-day routine. In that sense, it evokes memories of Akerman's landmark 1975 film Jeanne Dielman, 23 Commerce Quay, 1080 Brussels, in which Delphine Seyrig's housewife goes about her day-to-day routine (the two kitchens even feature similar shiny-tiled walls).
Throughout, her mother, Natalia, eats, reads magazines, and chats with Akerman. Words like boring and exciting don't quite apply—it's both and neither—as Akerman provides a privileged look at their relationship (in Skype sessions, Natalia calls her "darling" and "sweetie"). If she doesn't understand Akerman's methods, including long takes of trees bending in the wind and the rolling hills outside a car window, she respects her work. Though Natalia seems healthy, signs of decline materialize at the midway point, from difficulty eating to a wheezy cough, but this isn't a depressing film, since Chantal prioritizes life over death. What you remember is Natalia saying, "When I see your smile, it makes me happy."
After Natalia's death, Akerman suffered her own decline, culminating in her suicide last October. As she puts it in Marianne Lambert's documentary I Don't Belong Anywhere, "My mother was at the heart of my work." Some believe the divided reception of No Home Movie also played a part, but it's a mystery she took with her when she died. In the documentary, Chantal adds, "I always did what I liked and what interested me." She assumed audiences would share her interests—and they did. The way her aquamarine eyes light up the screen makes this the sadder film of the two, because it's hard to imagine that anything but time could put an end to her boundless curiosity.