Film

Child's Pose: An Awful Mother, Her Terrible Son, and the Root of All Evil

Child's Pose: An Awful Mother, Her Terrible Son, and the Root of All Evil

This is not a movie about yoga—quite the opposite. Another translation of the Romanian title for Child's Pose is "position the child," which, creepy and manipulative, is much more apt. The mother at the center of the film, Cornelia—the very convincing Luminita Gheorghiu, puffy-coiffed and lit-cigaretted—is cold and calculating. Her grown son (Bogdan Dumitrache, sulking) has killed someone else's child in an auto accident, and she schemes to keep him out of jail, despite the fact that he deplores her. The apple hasn't fallen far from the tree: They are both ugly of spirit, spoiled in temperament, possibly devoid of human kindness. Her love for him is increasingly desperate and uncomprehending in the face of thwarted expectations; he, endlessly self-involved, calls her an imbecile and demands that she leave him alone. "Blow me," he spits at her. "You, too," he adds to his father, calling him putty in his mother's hands, which sounds a lot nastier in Romanian.

These are awful people, sharply drawn, and the cinematography is documentary-style, clinical yet judgmental in its chilliness. The pacing is slow, the better to let the mother's imperious attitude and bountiful fur coat fill the airless, impersonal police station; it is absolutely unsurprising when the cops prove corrupt, and casually so, too. The policeman could use some help with the permitting for his brother's lake house, which the mother's influence can easily procure. Only money will be needed to convince the other driver to change his statement. As far as the victim and his family, they shouldn't prove problematic, either: "They are simple people," the cop says.

The henpecked father, the son's sour girlfriend, the entirely evil witness from the accident: No one here is sympathetic, nor free of machinations, until the story winds its way to the home of the victim. The honest, plainly devastated parents of this child hold the morality of the story: Money can't buy love, and it can't undo what's irretrievably done. The all-too-obvious statement about class—the upper echelons are dead-hearted and conniving, the poor are the repository of inchoate but blessedly real feelings—is rendered meaningless by the hell that is life for everyone in Child's Pose. recommended

 

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