Review: Remember to Blink
- Austėja Urbaitė’s feature is a solid debut revolving around cultural clashes and parental possessiveness
World-premiered at the 2022 Warsaw Film Festival and freshly screened in the main competition of this year’s Vilnius International Film Festival, Austėja Urbaitė’s debut, titled Remember to Blink, revolves around a French couple, Leon (Arthur Igual) and Jacqueline (Anne Azoulay), who are about to adopt two Lithuanian kids, Rytis (Ajus Antanavicius) and Karolina (Inesa Sionova).
The couple lives in a spacious country house and decides to hire a young Lithuanian student, Gabriele (Dovile Kundrotaite), who is tasked to help them as a translator and interpreter. The girl is supposed to live with them for a while and help the children adapt to this new environment. Urbaitė sets up a sort of family idyll, but it’s quite clear that this peaceful state of things will not last long. A few small hints, interspersed throughout, lead us to wonder whether the couple – and, in particular, Jacqueline – are actually ready to adopt two children or are familiar enough with their culture of origin. For example, in one scene, Jacqueline tells Gabriele that she decided to adopt two Lithuanian kids after failing to adopt a Latvian one, because “her grandmother was Russian” and “Lithuanians aren’t that different from Russians”.
Once the two nippers arrive, things get more and more hectic. Rytis and Karolina see Gabriele as an older sister, and they develop a strong bond with her. Meanwhile, Jacqueline seems to push things too fast, trying to impose two new French names on the kids and commanding Gabriele to speak to them only in French.
It is an interesting narrative shift, which seems to zoom in on a new, unusual form of “neo-colonialism” taking place in a small family environment. On the surface, this seems more like an annoying, patronising attitude with little political meaning to it, but where one can still see – albeit in a rather subtle fashion – a cultural clash between Western Europe’s prejudices regarding Eastern Europe, and today’s reality in the east of the continent. Dramaturgically speaking, the characters’ interactions are well balanced and credible, and this “neo-colonial” trait, surely more visible in Jacqueline than in Leon, is a believable addition to her already possessive, controlling personality.
That being said, during the second half of the picture, Urbaitė manages to surprise us, gradually showing how multifaceted and irrational her leading characters are, making us question the ideas of parenthood, sisterhood and friendship. Besides, we won’t find out much about the characters’ past, but we will come to know enough to understand what is happening and why.
All in all, Urbaitė’s debut is an accomplished feature that manages to keep viewers hooked owing to the unpredictability of its characters, dry dialogue and decent performances. Technically speaking, the picture boasts some excellent cinematography. Notably, the bright shots of the idyllic natural surroundings near the house, lensed by Julius Sičiūnas, succeed in creating a stark contrast with the tense family environment that the two children and Gabriele end up living in.
Remember to Blink was produced by Lithuanian outfit Fralita Films.
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