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Mother of Asphalt

Dir: Dalibor Matanic. Croatia. 2010. 104mins

Though this marital melodrama may find a sympathetic audience on home territory and possibly around the Balkans as well, but anything beyond that would be an uphill struggle. Using over-familiar situations and stereotype characters, it offers a certain social portrait of the Croatian thirty-something generation, but it is neither a penetrating nor a particularly original one.

Told efficiently with the help of top technical contribution, it is helped by Skaricic’s performance as the nervous, restless and rebellious Mare.

While Marija Skaricic (best actress in the Pula national festival) does her best as a woman leaving her husband without the slightest idea where to go next, even she has to give up towards the end when both performer and the character she plays are left with no choice but to return all the way to square one, hoping for a better procession of events the next time around.

Mare (Skaricic) and Janko (Janko Popovic-Volaric) , are an average, up and coming middle class couple with a small son, Bruno (Noa Nikolic), burdened with debts after having acquired a new flat but outwardly appear adjusted to their life conditions.

However Mare has just been fired from her secretarial job for speaking out of turn - or so it is implied –and is restless and unhappy with her marriage and finally tells Janko that she intends to leave.

When, with typical male Insensitivity, he nevertheless attempts to have sex with her and is rejected, he lashes out at her with his fists. Hurt and insulted, she packs up her things, picks up her son and drives away in the middle of the night.

First she lands on the doorstep of a close girlfriend who is willing to offer shelter for a while but is less supportive than expected, claiming Mare’s reaction was excessive, adding it is only to be expected that when drunk, men will turn aggressive every once in a while. Then, when the friend’s husband steps in and unceremoniously tells off the unwanted guest, all Mare can do is retreat for the night with her boy inside her car, with no destination in sight.

A secondary, apparently unrelated, plot follows a lonesome department store night watchman, Milan (Kresimir Mikic), living on his own, apparently without any friends or relatives, sometimes stopping in a bar on the way to or from his empty flat to work, occasionally peeping through CCTV monitors at customers and passers-by, always wearing a pained, lugubrious expression on his face. No need for much imagination to figure out Mare and Milan are bound to meet somewhere near the end, which indeed happens when he notices the stranded mother and son huddled up in their car on Christmas night and offers the shelter of the deserted store he guards. Luckily, for all concerned, nothing comes out of it.

Most likely intended as a typical portrait of the Croatian post-war generation plagued by purely materialistic concerns and incapable to face their emotional problems, the script, written by director Matanic with Tomislav Zajec, covers the necessary territory, whether it is life beyond one’s means, inequality between sexes, families split across the continent and more, but never dares to stray much beyond the surface. Told efficiently with the help of top technical contribution, it is helped, at least part of the way, by Skaricic’s performance as the nervous, restless and rebellious Mare, who finds herself out of place in a society whose main objective is to catch up with Western consumerist mania, at the expense of everything else.

Production company: Kinorama

Producer: Nkica Juric-Tilic 

International sales contact : Miroslav Mogorovic, Soul Food, mogorovic@soulfoodfilms.com

Screenplay: Tomislav Zajec, Dalibor Matanic

Production designer: Ivan Veljaca

Editor: Tomislav Pavlic

Music: Jura Ferina, Pavao Miholjevic

Main cast: Marija Skaricic, Janko Popovic-Volaric, Kresimir Mikic, Noa Nikolic

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