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Simon Read [Film Festival 11.15.09] Romania movie review drama

Year: 2009
Directors: Bobby Paunescu
Writers: Bobby Paunescu
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: projectcyclops
Rating: 7 out of 10

Bobby Paunescu’s drama, Francesca, follows the eponymous young woman (played by Monica Barladeanu) as she prepares to emigrate from Bucharest to Milan and start a job as a kindergarten teacher, at a school for foreign children. Once her boyfriend has closed a recent business deal, he plans to join her. Things don’t go to plan, as boyfriend Mita stalls on his promises and becomes increasingly paranoid until he’s forced to confess a whole lot of dirty laundry which jeopardizes her plans.

Ah, Francesca... what to say? I feel almost ill-equipped to properly review this slice of Eastern European angst and drama, as it’s so far from my own personal taste that all I can do is to objectively review it as helpfully as possible, to the extent that I almost feel like simply making a list of pros and cons. Here we go then:

I fail to see what the big deal is. So, Mita lies to our heroine and covers his tracks with more lies. If I were her I’d just get on a bus, head to sunny Italy and leave the pretty pathetic loser to the strangely homo-erotic gangsters who are after him (they keep holding his hand and hugging him). She certainly doesn’t appear to love him, and their sex life is dead. Bucharest doesn’t seem that miserable a city to me either, so her ‘plight’ at wanting to escape Romania is a circle I can’t quite square (but what me know?). She also has a close circle of friends in Bucharest and they socialize and have fun together. She’s hardly tied to the grindstone, so what is the big deal?

What does work is Francesca’s relationship with her parents, as her father’s down-at-heel attitude towards life rings-true of a man defeated at every turn by the world, and Francesca’s passionate vow to change the perception Italians have of ‘gypsy’ Romanians is motivation enough for her escape (I guess). There’s a lot of racism and pretty brutal insults hurled towards the Italians, to the point where it really becomes a running joke throughout the film, as characters tell her in hushed tones of how Romanian women are snatched from the streets of Rome, or that she might wake-up to find her organs harvested. At one point a family friend starts bellowing, “All that’s stuff about Latin Lovers, it’s all bullshit! We will succeed through Freemasonry!” There’s also a scene where she visits her stepfather who manages a bank, and takes out a substantial loan to help Mita. As repayment he asks her to sit on his knee and sing a little song about being a cute kitten with a spot on her nose. It’s not sexual, just surreal; and Barladeanu’s innocent but practical attitude towards such a task is part in parcel of her characters way of approaching life in general.

In the end Francesca is a well written and pretty entertaining drama, and there are far worse ways to spend ninety minutes. Although I feel the character’s plight was largely self-imposed, and that when an on-screen relationship doesn’t seem realistic it kind of numbs any sympathy one feels for them. While Francesca may be ninety-percent better than any drama coming out of Hollywood, it’s still nothing really special.

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