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GOCRITIC! Trieste 2019

GoCritic! Review: One Day

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- Our Slovak participant Zuzana Sotáková looks at the Cannes Critics Week title which is now screening in the Feature Film Competition at the 30th Trieste Film Festival

GoCritic! Review: One Day
Zsófia Szamosi in One Day

A woman who is struggling with life’s expectations and demands, representing many other women who must contend with similar situations, is the theme of the Hungarian film, One Day [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Zsófia Szilágyi
film profile
]
. Zsófia Szilágyi's debut feature is an intimate drama exploring one rather intense day in the life of a wife and a mother of three. The film premiered at Cannes Critic's Week where it received the FIPRESCI Prize, while its Italian premiere took place at the 30th Trieste Film Festival in the Feature Film Competition.

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Wake up to a dark morning and get the kids ready for school. Make an unpleasant call to the insurance company. Take your youngest to nursery. Go to work. Take your daughter to ballet. Go shopping on a budget. Bring your sons home. Drive your eldest to his fencing class, wait for him, then bring him home for his cello lesson. Deal with the mother-in-law and the broken kitchen tap. Take care of the baby who has a high fever and lice… Anna (Zsófia Szamosi) is on a constant treadmill. This is just one day in the life of our middle-aged protagonist. Any remaining headspace is taken up by her husband, who she suspects is cheating on her. 

Genuine, everyday life flows through the narrative of One Day and this is the film’s greatest asset. The script, finely tuned to the last detail and further bolstered by strong acting performances, is as authentic as it could possibly be. A feeling of desolation dominates from the outset where we see Anna getting ready to go out with a friend - a woman who has a crush on her husband and who doesn't even bother to hide it – and working up all the courage she can for the task ahead while her three kids scream noisily in the hallway.

Stressful situations are no rare thing in One Day. They appear at just the right moment, reminding us that there is no respite, for Anna or the viewer. It’s a suffocating watch, but there are some funny moments, such as when tired Anna mistakenly attempts to open someone else's car, assuming it's hers. Szilágyi's portrayal of this character is so realistic in all aspects – from her fatigue, through to her irritation and despair, to the love and tenderness she bestows – that the compassion we feel for Anna lasts far beyond the closing credits of the film. Perfectly written dialogues mirror both the director’s observant approach to the topic and her clear understanding of people and relationships. Relatively speaking, however, the character of Anna's husband, Szabolcs (Leó Füredi), does appear underdeveloped and an opportunity has been lost for greater plasticity in the portrait of the couple’s marriage.

One Day stands out thanks to its actors and the mutual bonding that has clearly taken place between them. Szamosi excels in her role and lends depth to the lead character, making full use of all acting means available to her: Anna bends under the weight of her duties and worries, but she is also strong and beautiful when standing as a teacher in front of her class, and happy and loving during tender moments with her baby. Finding three convincing child-actors of varying ages must have been a challenge for the filmmakers, but it is one that has certainly paid off.

Cinematography plays a key role in underscoring the emotions of this film (for example, when Anna sits on the bus in a seat reserved for elderly citizens and leans her tired head against the window) and helps to build the tension that is growing inside Anna. Although the story is told chronologically, there is one scene which steps outside of the main narrative line. This serves to stress the fears of our protagonist and the viewer can’t help but feel that One Day would have benefitted from more twists of this kind. The visual style of the picture, meanwhile, does give the impression of constant darkness, as does the script, but happily there is always enough light to balance out the mood.

This article was written as part of GoCritic! training programme.

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