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GOCRITIC! Trieste 2019

GoCritic! Review: Alice T.

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- We take a look at the latest film of Romanian auteur Radu Muntean, which had its Italian premiere at the 30th Trieste Film Festival

GoCritic! Review: Alice T.
Andra Guţi in Alice T.

Radu Muntean’s sixth film, Alice T. [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Radu Muntean
film profile
]
, screened in the official competition section of the 71st Locarno International Film Festival, is a coming-of-age, psychological drama which confirms the central role the director has in the Romanian New Wave. It had its Italian premiere in the Feature Film Competition of the 30th Trieste Film Festival.

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Alice (Andra Guţi) is the daughter nobody wants: she is provocative, aggressive, manipulative and permanently locked in conflict with the world and all its rules. She is hard to love, especially irresponsibility of her often extreme actions. She can be joyful or furious, depending on the moment, alternating between blind cruelty and total vulnerability. 

All this is particularly ironic, because Alice is adopted. She has an intense and troubled relationship with her divorced, adoptive mother, Bogdana (Mihaela Sîrbu, from Everybody in Our Family [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Radu Jude
film profile
]
) - a relationship which is further rocked when Alice falls pregnant at just 16 years of age, revelation which is all the more painful given her mother's inability to bear a child. After her initial reaction to this news, and following on from an intense, physical argument, Bogdana finally accepts the idea of a newborn joining the family.

Alice, however, is a pathological liar, and she begins to play a game with her family and friends. Whilst privately she doesn't want the baby, Alice constructs an elaborate labyrinth of lies, manipulating others and pretending that she really is ready to become a mother.

Our anti-heroine's disagreeable actions serve to test the unconditional love which others feel for her (especially when it comes to Bogdana), a phenomenon which isn't so uncommon among adopted children. By pretending she wants to become a mother, Alice is able to attract a certain level of attention, approval and extra care from her divorced parents and her relatives.

This need for attention is reflected in Muntean's cinematic approach: the camera of DoP, Tudor Lucaciu, never lets Alice out of its gaze; even in wider shots featuring other characters, the flames of her rebellious, red hair burn bright and her powerful presence dominates the screen. Alice’s inability to handle Bogdana’s pain is beautifully depicted in one central scene, where the teen can be seen hiding behind a door, the textured glass deforming her image and reflecting the hardship she has experienced in growing up and in trying to find her own identity.

Lead actress, Guţi, found by Muntean from among almost 800 girls, is a vibrant and enthralling performer, who manages to find a balance amidst the many nuances of her character. The chemistry Guti shares with Sirbu during rare but convincing moments in the film - when they go shopping together, for example - enriches the film with an authentic intimacy and tenderness, and opens a welcome window onto the softer side of their relationship. 

Muntean doesn't look to convey the overwhelming levels of tragedy that surround the subject of abortion in Romania and that were so famously explored by Cristian Mungiu in 4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Cristian Mungiu
interview: Oleg Mutu
film profile
]
. Instead, his film possesses a certain sharp-edged grace, combining the rough and the smooth to tell a powerful story about a teenager's desperate need for love and acceptance.

Portraying such a difficult and, at times, detestable character must have been difficult, but the director has risen to the challenge by opting for a minimalist style. He eschews judgement and embraces respect in order to enter into the world of a young girl who might appear, at first glance, a walking, reckless disaster, but who actually turns out to be so much more. Alice is deeply imperfect, passionate and strong, and she is certainly hard to forget.

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

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