Romanian film review – Growing up is hard to do: Back Home

Acasă la tata/Back Home is Andrei Cohn’s feature debut and one of the more interesting releases of last autumn. Somehow I missed covering it back then but HBO is screening the pic this week, which prompted me to (finally) write about it. Back Home is aired tomorrow, 9 February, at 1:15 pm and if the daytime slot is not your cup of tea, you can also catch the film anytime you like if you have a subscription for HBO GO.

The story is a classic one: a failed artist returns to his hometown, hoping for some sort of salvation/escape. The artists, in this case, is Robert (played by Alexandru Papadopol), a frustrated (wannabe) writer in his mid-thirties who has been working as a journalist in Bucharest and published one volume of poetry. Obviously running away from something, he suddenly shows up at his father’s place in a small port village, but the relationship between the two is strained, to put it mildly. Later on, he runs into a friend and an old flame. The following night starts off funny with the three of them having a laugh and more than a few drinks and ends dramatically, with a few revelations for everyone involved.

Back Home has a lot of talking, too much at times, and my patience was additionally strained by Robert’s absolute obnoxiousness. He is a self-centred, insufferable figure and while the plot requires he is unsympathetic and goes through some sort of transformation, some more charm could have helped, especially for a leading character. The much-needed warmth and credibility are brought by Andi Vasluianu as his loud and foul-mouthed former best friend and by Ioana Flora as a divorced local beauty who might still carry a torch for Robert. The two old friends are the heart of the film and their turns as two people doing their best being caught in a life they would not have chosen for themselves make their struggles relatable and moving.

What also makes the film worthwhile are the wonderful images by ace cinematographer Andrei Butică. The camera takes its time and captures the stillness and poetry of the village and its surroundings, the calm and (apparently) idyllic atmosphere of a place which seems to stand still. Houses and fences are all painted in the most beautiful of blue and the colour’s breathtaking vibrancy would be reason alone to watch Back Home and give into its melancholy feel.

by Ioana Moldovan, columnist

(Photo source: Acasa la tata on Facebook)