IDENTITY: Coming to terms with parenthood coincides with the quest for reconciliation with family.
Carmen Gray
Carmen Gray
Freelance film critic and regular contributor to Modern Times Review.
Published date: August 15, 2020

So often in cinema — and especially the cinema of Eastern Europe — the importance of fathers is felt in their very absence. Men who’ve left their expected family roles, and wreckage in their wake, is a theme that crops up again and again, whether they have gone off to war or to make a living in more lucrative conditions, or simply ditched their responsibilities for another woman or the bottle. Whatever the reason, the societal message to audiences is clear: youngsters are messed up by not having a solid male role model to emulate, and this wound will prompt them to angrily act out, or at least ache to repair the loss.

Sometimes in these archetypal stories fathers come back, only for the distance to remain unbridged. In Russian auteur Andrei Zvyagintsev’s The Return (2003), two adolescent boys are shocked when their father appears after twelve years, and a wilderness bonding trip unleashes repressed hostility. Romanian director Radu Jude makes more of a black comedy out of the failings of fatherhood, but his absurdist portrayal of a deadbeat dad who holds his ex’s household under siege Everybody in Our Family (2012) still stokes our fears that the line between civil niceties and out-of-control mayhem is thin. In the recent Czech-Slovak drama Let There Be Light (2019) by

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