Friday, April 20, 2018

Talking Tribeca: Lemonade

I’ve had the pleasure this year of screening a number of selections from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, which takes place April 18th-29th.

Directed by Ioana Uricaru
International Narrative Competition

The immigration debate in contemporary America has gone way beyond the issue of a green card, with prospective arrivals from certain countries barred from entry and racial profiling often in place which doesn’t bother to distinguish based on residency status. The green card system, while relatively simple compared to many other ways of becoming a citizen, is still plagued with many problems, where even a candidate who tries to follow all the rules may be subject to baseless discrimination and feel forced to do things they otherwise wouldn’t out of desperation or fear.

Mara (Mãlina Manovici) is a Romanian woman who has come to the United States and married Daniel (Dylan Smith), who is recovering from a serious construction fall. As her nine-year-old son Dragos (Milan Hurduc) arrives, Mara finds herself losing control of her daily life and her struggle to get a green card. Things get even worse when her immigration officer, Moji (Steve Bacic), takes advantage of the position of power he is in and puts her in an impossible situation where she must compromise everything she believes in to have any hope of attaining the life she so wants.

This is a relatively miserable movie, one that rarely finds moments of true joy for any of its characters. Mara is quiet, not merely because English isn’t her first language, and she doesn’t take much delight in anything in her life aside from being reunited with her son, who is far and away the happiest person in the film. Mara’s marriage to Daniel seems like a positive relationship, but it’s quickly revealed that the two of them don’t know each other nearly as well as they think. Watching these unpleasant people experience unpleasant things is hardly appealing, though its tone is in keeping with other Romanian cinema.

Manovici’s performance stands out as the strongest element of the film, a believable portrayal of a woman just trying to live her life in a fulfilling way with all the right intentions. This depressing film serves as a cinematic representation of a struggle many people go through when they reach a new country and must go through an arduous process to earn the rights native inhabitants automatically have. It’s hardly an inviting or optimistic one, and its unsatisfying ending suggests that a story such as this is difficult to properly and purposefully conclude.


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