Dir.: Olga Chajdas; Cast: Julia Kijowska, Eliza Rycembel, Andrzej Konopka; Poland 2018, 122 min.
This hit and miss debut drama from Polish filmmaker Olga Chajdas struggles with an illogical narrative, despite some positive elements.
French teacher Nina (Kijowska) desperately wants a child despite her failing marriage to Wotjek (Konopka), a car mechanic. In order to find the ideal surrogate mother the couple embark on a bizarre strategy: reversing their car into a prospective surrogate’s car, they then offer the victim a cost free repair at Wotjek’s garage and make a connection. And it’s during one of these ill-conceived escapades that Nina meets Magda (Rycembel), an airport security guard with an active lesbian sex life. Nina falls head over heels for the androgynous young woman but Wotjek, feeling left out, reacts with a violent assault on Magda. Nina then gets cold feet, after a confrontation with one of Madga’s ex-lovers with the whole debacle culminating in a positive conclusion.
Strangely enough some of strongest scenes in NINA take place away from the central lesbian love affair. But while the lovers somehow lack a certain chemistry, Rycembel’s performance as the hot to trot initiator of the sensitive sexual encounter scenes has a lot going for it. And this is what makes Nina unique in spite of its hapless narrative. DoP Tomasz Naumiuk does a great job of recording the wild goings on with his mobile handheld images. There are also some extremely beautiful snowy landscapes.
At Rotterdam Film Festival 2018, where NINA won the VPRO Big Screen Award, Chajdas talked about the repressive new government and the lack of a gay club scene in Poland – which is made much more colourful in her feature than reality permitted. AS
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