'Best Intentions'

A mother's mild stroke brings out the control freak lurking inside many an Everyman frightened by the vulnerability of loved ones in Adrian Sitaru's sophomore feature, "Best Intentions."

A mother’s mild stroke brings out the control freak lurking inside many an Everyman frightened by the vulnerability of loved ones in Adrian Sitaru’s sophomore feature, “Best Intentions.” A more personal work than the helmer-scripter’s previous “Hooked,” not only because it’s based on Sitaru’s own experiences but thanks to the situation’s inherent universality, the pic is a slice of life instantly recognizable to auds regardless of nationality. Best appreciated by admirers of Romanian cinema’s exacting verisimilitude and confident filmmaking, “Best Intentions” is a fest-circuit shoe-in, but only careful handling can lead it toward limited arthouse play.

Alex (Bogdan Dumitrache) is a real guy’s guy, the kind who hangs on to tattered underwear and gets annoyed when g.f. Delia (Aline Grigore, in an underwritten role) throws it out. When his father (Marian Ralea) calls to say his mom (Natasa Raab, pitch-perfect) is in the hospital following a stroke, Alex hightails it to the train station with a head full of anxieties.

The ensuing days (delineated via titles) are filled with helpful strangers and friends whose unsolicited advice about where best to have her treated, accompanied by horror stories of similar cases, further unsettles Alex, who’s incapable of recognizing how feelings of helplessness have compromised his judgment and made him insufferably controlling. Constantly second-guessing his parents’ choices despite their confidence in the doctor (Adrian Titieni), Alex is sucked into a nightmare world of his own creation: he’s desperate to make the right decisions, yet his limited medical knowledge means worry is offset by a very masculine need for domination.

Sitaru’s script is so authentic, it feels like it’s been copied from some hidden recording device. Though Delia could use filling out, the rest of the characters accurately populate that semi-surreal limbo of all hospital visits, where strangers become all-important guardians and friends are too free with their counsel. Alex’s passive-aggressive behavior makes him irritating yet understandable as the possibility of his mother’s mortality exposes a deeper level of immaturity hinted at earlier in the film.

Where “Hooked” was all p.o.v. shots, here Sitaru adopts a more equitable lensing style, mixing subjective perspectives with standard viewpoints. There’s no apparent rhyme or reason for when the camera switches to p.o.v., which seems to be passed around like a contagious virus; only Alex never gets the bug. Rather than lending immediacy or naturalism to the scenario, the device calls attention to itself by its very randomness and, much as in “Hooked,” plays like a gimmick without deepening a sense of character or the act of spectatorship.

Otherwise, visuals are carefully constructed, often involving satisfying long takes during which the camera appears to gently float in mid-air. The style suits the tense atmosphere, carefully contained so as to remain consistently real; the choice of widescreen allows the hospital room to feel at once like its own vast world and a constricted place where neuroses can breed unchecked.

Best Intentions

Romania-Hungary

Production

A Hi Film, Cor Leonis Films, 4Proof Film production, in association with Movie Partners in Motion. (International sales: Films Boutique, Berlin.) Produced by Ada Solomon. Co-producers, Emoke Vagasi, Monica Lazurean-Gorgan. Directed, written by Adrian Sitaru.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen, HD-to-35mm), Adrian Silisteanu; editor, Andrei Gorgan; production designer, Monica Lazurean-Gorgan; costume designer, Malina Ionescu; sound (DTS), Tamas Zanyi; associate producers, Marie-Pierre Macia, Juliette Lepoutre; line producer, Valentino Rudolf. Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (competing), Aug. 4, 2011. Running time: 104 MIN.

With

Bogdan Dumitrache, Natasa Raab, Aline Grigore, Marian Ralea, Adrian Titieni, Clara Voda, Gelu Colceag, Tibi Dina, Isabela Neamtu, Vasilica-Ana Dogaru, Aura Calarasu, Gabriela Popescu, Mirela Tugui, Iulian Postelnicu, Adina Lucaciu, Vlad Oancea, Delia Goia, Remusz Szikszai, Orsolya Toth. (Romanian dialogue)

Filed Under:

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more