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Don Juan

by Jerzy Sladkowski

Don Juan

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Twenty-two-year-old Oleg doesn’t live up to his mother Marina’s idea of a real man. She thinks he’s an autistic loafer. He’s enrolled at the University of Nizhny Novgorod and is supposed to be watching online lectures, but his mother says all he actually does is hang around watching TV. Oleg doesn’t have any need for friendships, either. Marina wants him to improve his life and subjects him to a series of unconventional treatments. In one particularly uncomfortable scene, we see the therapist riding him as if he were a horse. Another psychiatrist tells Oleg how useless he is and that he will always be alone. Strangely enough the camera seems to be welcome everywhere, and it closely follows these dramatic developments. This gives this documentary a slapstick feel – with a nice dose of satire for good measure. Nonetheless, heated kitchen table conversations between Marina and her own mother reveal the bitter seriousness of the matter, and Marina’s mother wants her to adopt a more positive attitude towards Oleg. Don Juan raises questions about the distinction between introversion and autism. When will Oleg be allowed to be himself at last? Salvation eventually comes from an unexpected source. It is an encouraging victory for humanity, as well as a comment on mental health care.

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