Housekeeping for Beginners – Film Review

What a film. Loved it!

When it opened with a small, squarish, art film sort of screen, followed by a grainy picture, I wondered to myself, ‘Oh no, am I up to this?’

And as a chaotic, hard to fathom set of early scenes all designed to confuse had just that effect on me, I asked myself the same question again.

But suddenly I was drawn into the film as I began to work out who was who and how they fitted, or didn’t fit, together.

If you arrive to see the film knowing little or nothing about it – as I mostly prefer when I go to see a film – you can soon find yourself wondering where it is set and what languages are being spoken; where all the people have come from and what they are all doing.

The house of Dita (played by Romanian star Anamaria Marinca), in the hills of Skopje, North Macedonia, is a makeshift refuge for a motley crew of queer people. When her girlfriend falls terminally ill, the aloof Dita is forced to promise she will raise her partner’s two reluctant daughters. But to save this patchwork family, she must marry the nearest available man due to the country’s legal position on same-sex marriage and adoption.

The story explores universal truths. Dita – a social worker, a bit like Mother Teresa who, coincidentally, came from nearby Albania – never wanted to be a mother, but circumstances force her to become one: to the tiny, but amusing troublemaker Mia and the rebellious teen Vanesa. A battle of wills ensues as the three continue to butt heads and become an unlikely family that must fight to stay together. And Ali – about whom I will say no more – becomes an unlikely central, bonding character.

While the film’s publicity advertises its Queer Lion award from the Venice Film Festival, that well deserved accolade is also liable to mislead. While most of the main characters are ‘queer’ the drama is straight in that it deals with people who are marginalised, including the Roma ‘Gypsy’ community, but striving to survive in a society not traditionally sympathetic to them – a story that resonates through the ages.

The film had its Australian premiere at the Adelaide Film Festival last October. As the Festival said, it is ‘Visually gripping and powerfully acted’ and ‘Macedonian-Australian Goran Stolevski has truly established himself as one of world cinema’s most exciting directorial voices.’

The warm reception of critics for the film rings true to me.

“An untamed, densely detailed drama that crackles with so much feral energy…[Goran Stolevski’s] storytelling is fresh, authentic and genuinely exciting”: Screen Daily.

“A fizzy, huggable portrait of a self-made, roughly blended Queer family”: Hollywood Reporter.

Rating: 9/10

The season starts 9 May @ Luna Leederville + Luna on SX in Fremantle

By Michael Barker, Editor, Fremantle Shipping News


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