Review: ‘The Mother’

Motherhood on a Russian collective dairy farm hasn't many charms in this rarefied reflection on hard-scrabble living.

Motherhood on a Russian collective dairy farm hasn’t many charms in this rarefied reflection on hard-scrabble living. Filmed over three years, highly arty observational docu, by helmers Antoine Cattin (Swiss) and Pavel Kostomarov (Russian), plays more as episodic strands dominated by overly poetic visuals than a coherent narrative whole. As a representation of contempo Russia’s rural working classes, “The Mother” reinforces the stereotype of strong, suffering women and largely useless, often brutal men. Best responses should come from specialist fests and Euro webs.

Main focus is middle-aged Liuba, raising nine kids with love and not much else after fleeing an abusive hubby. Helmers alternate extreme closeups of Liuba and her brood in their dingy, crowded quarters with shots of her traveling by train to visit her imprisoned eldest son. Pretty oldest daughter Alessia proves a more camera-friendly subject, shown sternly quizzing her siblings on their homework, and is later wooed by co-worker Zhenia, but as with Liuba, a peaceful, upwardly mobile life isn’t in the cards. A contrasting strand intros 3-year-old Sacha, who’s flagrantly abused and exploited by his mother, another farm worker. Tech credits are pro.

The Mother



A Les Films Hors-Champ production, in collaboration with Les Films d'ici, Parallax Pictures, Television Suisse Romande, Arte, YLE TV2, TV Ontario. (International sales: Les Films Hors-Champs, Chavornay, Switzerland.) Produced by Elena Hill. Directed, written by Antoine Cattin, Pavel Kostomarov.


Camera (color, DigiBeta), Cattin, Kostomarov; editors, Cattin, Kostomarov; music, Thierry van Osselt, Alexander J.S. Cracker. Reviewed at Karlovy Vary Film Festival (competing), July 9, 2008. Original title: La Mere. Russian dialogue. Running time: 80 MIN.


Liuba, Alessia, Sasha, Zhenia.

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