Child's Pose Calin Peter Netzer

Nothing proves the vitality of an artistic movement better than the excellence of its supposed second-tier adherents. While lacking the elegant formal conviction of the best Romanian New Wave films, Calin Peter Netzer’s Child’s Pose is nevertheless a work of sophisticated and affecting storytelling, persuasively enmeshing the fate of individuals with that of society.

Luminita Gheorghiu, the chameleonic character actress who’s become the wearied face of Romanian cinema, plays a meddlesome matriarch whose interfering ways become vital when her grown son (Bogdan Dumitrache) accidentally runs over a teen-age boy. She instantly clicks into crisis-management mode, getting legalistic with the arresting officers, bribing a witness, and attempting to make nice with the grieving family. The class divide between the sedan-driving city dwellers and the hand-to-mouth suburbanites is always apparent, but so are the fractures between a resentfully coddled son and his self-sacrificing mother.

Screenwriter Razvan Radulescu’s wounded humanist hothouses have helped to define recent Romanian cinema, and aside from some clunky early signposting Child’s Pose represents a worthy continuation of that project. Less successful is the film’s harried visual approach. We’re so long past handheld camerawork denoting documentary realism that its execution here bestows on the action a downright soapy quality. The screen doesn’t need to shake for us to understand the emotional tremors being depicted.