Review: Alice T.
by Stefan Dobroiu
- LOCARNO 2018: Radu Muntean’s sixth feature, in competition at Locarno, is a rare, compelling portrait of teenage angst
Romanian director Radu Muntean’s sixth feature, and the fifth he has written together with his traditional writing partners Răzvan Rădulescu and Alexandru Baciu, Alice T. [+see also:
interview: Radu Muntean
film profile], is a compelling portrait of a teenager and a very rare exploration of this particular age in Romanian cinema. With excellent performances from newcomer Andra Guţi and the already established Mihaela Sîrbu, the film promises to impress the jury of the 71st Locarno International Film Festival (1-11 August), where it is being screened in the official competition.
Guţi plays the title character, the rebellious Alice, a teenager who has a strained, unpredictable relationship with her adoptive mother, Bogdana (Sîrbu). But Alice’s problems at school and her bouts of aggression fade into insignificance when she drops a real bombshell: Alice is pregnant, and she is determined to keep the baby. This revelation puts Bogdana in a difficult position, both because she is convinced that Alice won’t be able to face up to the difficult task of motherhood and because she herself has never been able to have a child.
Alice T. may cause quite a splash in Romania, where audiences often complain that domestic cinema doesn’t favour stories close to local cinemagoers. A combination of family drama and a coming-of-age story, Alice T. could not be closer to the idea of family, focusing on a gender and an age that so rarely find themselves in the spotlight. Besides Nicolae Constantin Tănase’s promising first feature, The World Is Mine [+see also:
film profile], the challenges in the life of a young woman have never been tackled in a more head-on fashion than in Alice T. Meanwhile, films about children and teenagers are so rare in Romanian cinema that in 2018, the National Film Center decided to organise a section of its project-financing competition specially dedicated to the genre.
Played beautifully by a dedicated Guţi, the protagonist helps the audience understand how difficult it is to have no direction, no landmark. The story attentively explores a youngster’s reaction to a world she doesn’t know the rules of, or a world whose rules are forever changing. Her life is like a drive down a bumpy road: one careless turn of the wheel is enough to push the car out of sync with the terrain, with unexpected, drastic and tragic consequences. Sometimes, this turn of the wheel is accidental, but sometimes it is a voluntary, rebellious scream by a caged soul. “I can do whatever I want; it’s my life,” she seems to say.
For some viewers, Alice may seem like a villain, a hopeless creator of continuous disasters. But for a more understanding audience, she is a compelling image of a perfectible being, who is trying to find her way at an age when everything is simultaneously fleeting and definitive. Muntean efficiently uses Bogdana as a mirror to Alice’s actions, exploring the difficulties thrown up by the generation gap, and also the explosive mix of love, frustration, suspicion and disappointment that may hinder the communication between a mother and a daughter. Their strained tango may be the most beautiful relationship to be seen this year in Romanian cinema.
Alice T. was produced by Multi Media Est (Romania), and co-produced by Les Films de l'Après-Midi (France), Film i Väst and Chimney (Sweden). The film is being handled internationally by Films Boutique. Bac Films will distribute the movie in France, while Voodoo Films will bring it out domestically, with a release tentatively set for November.
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