Child’s Pose is a stunner and the kind of drama that seeps into a person’s psyche for days. Directed by Calin Peter Netzer, who co-wrote the script with Razvan Radulescu, the Romanian picture is about a mother named Cornelia (Luminta Gheorghiu) who loves her son Barbu (Bogdan Dumitrache). It could be fair to say this wealthy woman has smothered him. Cornelia’s controlling nature has driven Barbu away, a fact she resists, instead opting to blame her son’s girlfriend for the separation.
A chance for Cornelia to step back into Barbu’s life occurs via tragedy. Barbu sits in a police station after speeding through one of the area’s poorer neighborhoods, striking and killing a child while doing so. Barbu is in shock and doesn’t know what to do, his pampered life never prepping him for a moment like this. Cornelia enters the picture forcefully, sniping with the officers detaining her boy, telling him what should be in his statement, even if it clashes with his previous one.
Netzer’s picture bathes in a slow-burning displeasure, letting the resentments and disappointments within this family gradually make the way to the surface. Everyone talks in and around one another, often as if the person he or she is mentioning isn’t in the room. Barbu’s reluctance to reach out to the family whose son he killed only heightens this tension, bubbling over in a vitriolic dinner scene. Years of pent-up annoyances that flirt with hatred gush out like a bloody wound that won’t clot.
The back of the movie is a marvel, with Gheorghiu giving a stupendous performance as a woman trying to atone for a son that doesn’t want to talk to her. She goes to great lengths to fix his problems, an act that unleashes its own secrets. Watching Gheorghiu’s determined, cold matriarch lose her control and open up emotionally due to the raw lows of humanity is something special. The movie is too; one of the year’s best that I’ve seen.