Reviews and notes
2016 Berlin, Istanbul, Edinburgh, New Horizons (Poland), German FF (Wellington), German FF (Argentina), Chicago, Stockholm
2017 Palm Springs, Sofia
The second feature from Anne Zohra Berrached addresses one of the most difficult decisions that a woman may have to make in her life. Astrid (Julia Jentsch) must choose whether or not to have a late term abortion when she discovers that her unborn child's health is severely compromised. It's a highly emotive subject and Berrached does not give her characters an easy ride. Through a combination of unflinching, high quality performances and some assiduous button-pushing, Berrached has put together a wrenchingly affecting picture. - Wendy Ide, Screendaily.
Saw this at the Berlinale 2016, where it was part of the Competition for the prestigious Golden Bear. The script was well written and the drama developed gradually and evenly paced. Apart from being a well fleshed story about matters of life and death, this movie is also a much better exposition on the topic than any documentary can do, and also a much easier format to let us remember the arguments in favor or against. Sufficient dramatic ingredients were added to have all the choices presented to us, giving us the chance to determine for ourselves how we would have thought and acted in similar circumstances. Particularly that some women saw her as a role model, due to her reputation as a comedian, turned the public opinion into an extra factor in the equation. Of course, all the usual suspects (parents, friends, relatives, business contacts) also have an opinion in the matter, and are usually not very shy to offer their viewpoint. In this case her 8-year old son formed an extra complicating factor too, and his involvement in the discussion was a bit late, but not too late.
We saw viewpoints shift one way or the other along the running time, especially when not only Down syndrome was the main issue, but also heart problems, necessitating several operations on a baby only a few months old. To allow the arteries around the heart to grow to a size feasible to be operable, the baby should have to survive at least one month before the first operation, and still another five months before the second more definite one. The baby is bound to suffer several months in the meantime, a frightening foresight indeed.
Eventually, as per German law, the mother has the last word about an abortion, which by the way is lawfully allowed in this particular case for even a far advanced pregnancy as hers was. Until the end we were unsure which choice would be made in the end (no spoilers here). There were no overly sentimental scenes nor was there any tear jerking for that matter. Albeit that some hefty outbursts were not avoided, it was overall very rational, in spite of the understandable opinions and heavy emotions displayed by the protagonists. All in all, a realistic story and an excellent display of nearly all pro and con arguments one can think of.
- JvH4826, IMDB, February 2016.
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