BIFF14 - Mother, I Love You - Cinema Review

'handled with a conviction that can sometimes be lacking from child-centred Drama'

If there's a tone that's difficult to balance, it's something within a film that offers definitive seriousness and innocent sweetness at the same time. Just look at the reviews (and the trailer) for A Long Way Down. That is a film which tries to be funny and light about a serious subject (suicide), with popular opinion being that it fails spectacularly.

Mother, I Love You isn't quite dealing with such a heavy topic but there's certainly a lot of seriousness around the predicament of Raimonds (Kristofers Konovalovs), who is on his way to some unfortunate juvenile criminality. At the same time as his Bad Deeds, Raimonds seems to have moments of sweetness and a genuine (if troubled) relationship with his mother (Vita Varpina).

The treatment of what Raimonds does and where it gets him is handled with a conviction that can sometimes be lacking from child-centred Drama. There's no doubt that his acts have consequences, and consequences of increasing seriousness. The predicaments he gets himself into are handled with an element of fatalism by director Janis Nords, who builds Mother, I Love You up like a Crime Drama; Raimonds slipping further and further into needing to cover his tracks and pursue more and more difficult routes to a conclusion. If there is a criticism, it's that we rarely get to see the awkward and dangerous side of what Raimonds does. A brush with a thief, who makes something as innocent as rubbing Raimonds' cold hand seem dangerous, is a tantalising glimpse of where Nords could have gone.

Even without this though, Konovalovs' convincing portrayal gives you an idea of how the young Raimonds' mind is working to extricate himself from the situation he gets into. You can see him working out his next lie one minute, breaking down the walls of his mother the next. It's an utterly convincing portrayal, probably one of the finer young performances I've seen in some time; guilty yet not threatening... yet. There's something of the children of Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon here, but infinitely more balanced and, therefore, arguably more terrifying.

Nords peppers his lead's performance with night shots of Riga which make the city both inviting and secretive; mirroring the dual nature of Raimonds, who simultaneously belongs there and seems out of place. You could tell the tone was working by the way nervous laughter occasionally crept through the audience; should we be worrying about this boy and what he might become, or encouraging his almost Holden Caulfield-like rebellion, coming-of-age and urban exploration? It's a question Nords leaves bravely to his audience, finishing on a scene that typifies Raimonds and is at once poetic, sad and emblematic of everything the character has shown us up to that point: you can't help but root for him, in a way, though you get the feeling his latest scheme will not end well either. Where will this character be in 10 years? If Nords is willing to tell us, then I am more than willing to listen.

The 20th Bradford International Film Festival ran from 27th March to 6th April 2014, with Widescreen Weekend taking place between 10th and 13th April. It is based at The National Media Museum, in the centre of Bradford.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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