Lost Boys, by Tyler Smith
Where do I even begin with Calin Peter Netzer’s beautiful Child’s Pose? It is a wonderful film that on the surface is fairly simple, but the emotional complexity underneath is so unrelenting and invigorating that you really feel like you’re in the middle of the characters’ situation. Netzer’s style lets the important scenes play out for as long as is required for the characters to get what they want, or at least to say what they came to say. Some of these scenes are excruciating, but we are stuck there nonetheless. Because there is no escape, not for them and not for us.
The story begins with Cornelia, an affluent woman, complaining about her crumbling relationship with her adult son. He is ungrateful and crass and she doesn’t know what to do. We feel for this woman, as she seems to be genuinely caring; certainly undeserving of any son’s wrath.
Then, the unthinkable happens. She gets word that her son has hit a young boy with his car. The boy is dead and the son is in trouble. It is at this point that we see Cornelia’s true relationship with her son come to light. It’s much more complicated than we thought. As she schemes and manipulates to ensure her son’s acquittal, we start to see this woman through her son’s eyes. We see how possessive and controlling she can be, and how she can play dumb when confronted, saying innocently, “I’m just trying to help you.”
Thankfully, Child’s Pose is not simply a movie condemning the actions of a controlling mother. We’ve seen that before and, while it can be compelling, it leaves us nowhere to go. Instead, we go deeper and deeper into Cornelia’s desperation. We see a woman who has spent her life defining herself through motherhood, and the absolute turmoil created when she is rejected by her child. Without him, what kind of mother is she? Or, even worse, what kind of person is she? Is she a person at all?
At the heart of the film is a broken relationship, and the way each party responds to it. But, once again, Netzer refuses to leave it at that. After all, an accident has occurred and an innocent child is dead. It would be downright solipsistic to act as though the only thing that matters is the affect this has on the family of the man responsible. Cornelia’s son may be drifting away from her, but that’s a much different thing than being ripped from her arms, never to be returned. At least her son is still alive.
We slowly work towards a convergence of all plot lines, as Cornelia comes face-to-face with the boy’s family. This climactic scene is a masterpiece of subtle, heartbreaking acting, played out in long takes. The actors are allowed enough room to feel what they’re going to feel and it is every bit as tense as the most suspenseful horror film out there.
Our natural instinct when we watch a film like Child’s Pose– or hear about a real life event like this- is to try to figure out who is responsible. We want to take sides. But this film isn’t so interested in giving into that instinct. Instead, Calin Peter Netzer argues that, with something as tragic as this, there are no sides. There is only sympathy, grief, and heartbreak. Tragedy reveals the cracks in our lives and we are better able to see where we are weak and where we are strong, and we are often surprised by what we find. Those discoveries are what this film is really about, and it is all the better for it.