Dir/scr: Pawel Sala. Poland. 2010. 95mins


The central story of a Polish mother brutally murdered by her two sons is a gripping one, but the experimental flashback structure ends up hampering the drama rather than accentuating it. Stylishly made and powerful at times, the film – set to open in Poland in September - will likely feature at festivals, especially these with a crime/genre bent.

Mateusz Kosciukiewicz is especially good as the disturbed Artur, whose capacity for violence is transparent.

The debut film from Pawel Sala, Mother Theresa Of Cats screened in the main competition section of the Karlovy Vary Film Festival. It is based on a real life crime that shocked Poland a couple of years ago, and as such therefore has an extra element to interest possible buyers.

The film opens with 22 year-old Artur (Mateusz Kosciukiewicz) and his 12 year-old brother Marcin (Filip Garbacz) being arrested by police in a rural motel, kicking off a series of flashbacks – beginning with a day and then spiraling back to cover months – to gradually reveal the origins of the crime.

Insurance saleswoman Teresa (an effective and sympathetic Ewa Skibinska) oversees her largely dysfunctional family – angry Artur who thinks he has paranormal powers; disturbed brother Marcin; a mentally disabled daughter Jadza and a tormented and weak husband Hubert, recently back from the Iraq war, plus a host of felines scattered through their flat.

But while the structure allows the script to delve into certain parts of their lives, there are no easy answers. Yes, these people are troubled, but the final act of violence is never really explained. Mateusz Kosciukiewicz is especially good as the disturbed Artur, whose capacity for violence is transparent, though other characters simply sit on the sideline and offer little to help the story along.

Production companies: Rozwoj Film Production, DeLord, Syrena Films, Polish Film Institute

International sales: Syrena Films, www.syrenafilms.com

Producer: Slawomir Rogowski

Cinematography: Mikolaj Kepkowski

Editor: Agnieszka Glinska

Production designer: Katarzyna Jarnuszkiewicz

Music: Marcin Krzyzanowski

Main cast: Ewa Skibinska, Mariusz Bonaszewski, Mateusz Kosciukiewicz, Filip Garbacz, Ewa Szykulska, Monika Pikuta, Malgosia Lata