TIFF 19: The Father

When the film opens, the family matriarch is already dead, so it’s impossible to tell if father and son ever had a good relationship, but it certainly seems strained now, and likely mourning the loss of its favourite buffer, mom. Around the grave site, widower Vasil (Ivan Savov) insists that the coffin’s lid be pried off so he can take a few last pictures. Afterward, at the reception, things get even more tense when Vasil insists his late wife has been trying to deliver him a message, from her death on the operating table and beyond.

The son, Pavel (Ivan Barnev) is really unhappy to be dealing with his father’s increasingly crazy antics when he should be home with his wife, who is having such a tough pregnancy he can’t even bring himself to tell her that his mother died. He sort of gets connived into bringing his father to see a psychic, and “consents” to the ensuing road trip is even more reluctantly – but he can’t quite ditch the old man either, fearing that his father is being targeted by scammers in his grief.

It sounds bleak, and it IS dark, but it’s also darkly funny. It sort of reminds me of my mother’s phone calls relating the newest bit of scandal from my grandparents, who drive her at least as crazy as the dad in this movie. I can hear her voice now telling you: definitely more crazy. Definitely more. There are still two of them! And they trigger each other constantly, my grandmother smoking in the bathroom in the world’s worst-kept secret, my grandfather refusing all food but desserts. Both of them agreeing to send cash and banking info to anyone who calls them up on the telephone. And then my mother swoops in to untangle all the knots.

The dynamics are interesting: the father clearly exerts a subtle kind of power, but his vulnerability is acknowledged in Pavel’s refusal to abandon him even though he barely tolerates him. Family is a prickly plant. Grief is crazy-making. The relationship between child and aging parent is tricky and fraught. Directors Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov mine that shit for all it’s worth, and frankly, it’s kind of nice to know it’s good for something.

4 thoughts on “TIFF 19: The Father

  1. Orca Flotta

    “it’s impossible to tell if father and son ever had a good relationship”
    It’s a universal truth that sons generally have stronger relationships with mothers while daughters are closer to fathers.



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