Child's Pose

Posted by Joel Copling on April 12, 2014

The lines of mournfulness and grief are apparent on her face from the moment she hears that her son, Barbu (Bogdan Dumitrache), has been involved in a car accident. They remain for the duration of co-writer/director Calin Peter Netzer's "Child's Pose," even when there's an apparent shift in her eyes toward calculation at the news that Barbu was instigator, not victim, of the accident, which killed a young boy. Her name is Cornelia, and she is played by renowned Romanian actress Luminita Georghiu in a performance of raw, stunning realism. Here, in a character defined by those around her as an affectation, a letdown, there isn't an off-note present. In a film as modest as it is affecting, Georghiu is the powerhouse.

Her neatly permed hair becomes more flyaway as the film progresses; her makeup, so perfectly preserving the face of one clinging to her youth, becomes ever-so-subtly less refined as she encounters this quickly deteriorating situation. It's looking more and more like Barbu is guilty of this crime, and it's not a huge consolation to the police officers (Mimi Branescu and Cerasela Iosifescu) that Barbu is wracked with guilt to the point of taking up smoking once more. The world is a place of the good and bad, and killing a child is the worst kind of bad. In a particularly upsetting sequence, the child's uncle confronts Cornelia outside the police station, stricken with grief and possibly in shock about seeing his nephew killed so violently.

Cornelia just wants to do the right thing, even as she goes about this exactly the wrong way. She urges Barbu to forge a statement to those police officers and even steals his phone from the vehicle that he drove during the incident. Her intentions are nothing but good; her execution of them is inevitably the opposite. But we can't blame her, really. Barbu isn't a bad guy. He might have gotten back into a smoking habit that doesn't seem likely to help during this sort of reconciliation process, and he might resent his mother for reasons left largely unspoken, but he's as human as you or I. He's just not ok right now. He wasn't drinking; he was simply speeding for absolutely no reason, as was the driver of the other car (Yes, the details of the accident are indeed distressing).

Ultimately, Cornelia chooses an honorable path for reconciliation: to offer payment for the child's funeral. She visits the parents (Adrian Tetieni and Tania Popa) in the film's wrenching final scene. Both parents are wondering why it had to happen; Cornelia has no explanation. But, she says, the boy had a sibling. His parents can start over. Their pursuit of charges will rip Barbu, an only child, away from Cornelia and her husband Domnul (Florin Zamfirescu). This world they (and, of course, we) inhabit isn't a black-and-white one. Netzer and Razvan Radulescu screenplay for "Child's Pose" is delicate and modest, finding raw moments of power in the midst of an unassuming slice-of-life, headlined by a devastating performance that explores the many facets of unendurable grief.

Film Information

Luminita Georghiu (Cornelia Keneres), Bogdan Dumitrache (Barbu), Natasa Raab (Olga Cerchez), Ilinca Goia (Carmen), Florin Zamfirescu (Domnul Fagarasanu), Vlad Ivanov (Dinu Laurentiu), Mimi Branescu (Officer #1), Cerasela Iosifescu (Officer #2), Adrian Titieni (Child's Father), Tania Popa (Child's Mother), Isfan Alexandru (Octavita).

Directed by Calin Peter Netzer and written by Netzer and Razvan Radulescu.

No MPAA rating.

112 minutes.

Released in New York City on February 19, 2014.