Review: The Son
by Vladan Petkovic
- The second feature by Bosnian filmmaker Ines Tanović has officially opened the 25th Sarajevo Film Festival and represents a truly generational Sarajevo film
Bosnian filmmaker Ines Tanović's second feature film, The Son [+see also:
interview: Ines Tanović
film profile], has opened the Sarajevo Film Festival (16-23 August). The festival usually starts off with an audience-friendly film from a sidebar section (last year, it was Cold War [+see also:
Q&A: Pawel Pawlikowski
film profile]), so when a competition film is placed in this position, it means that the programmers want to send a message. The last time this happened, it was with Aida Begić's Children of Sarajevo [+see also:
interview: Aida Begić
film profile] in 2012, the first major film from the territory to explore post-war Bosnian society, as opposed to the war itself. Similarly, Tanović's sophomore effort looks at the first generation born after the war, who are now teenagers.
The film opens with Arman (first-timer Dino Bajrović) saying goodbye to his parents Senad (Uliks Fehmiu) and Jasna (Snežana Bogdanović) and to his younger brother Dino (Hamza Ajdinović) as he goes to the airport to travel to Zagreb. Once there, he waits in vain for what we later learn is his biological mother. Devastated and lonely, the angry soon-to-be-18-year-old returns to the old family townhouse that his father, an architect, is determined to renovate despite a lack of means, to the chagrin of his wife — their union representative of the city's struggling public transport company.
Constantly in conflict with his surroundings, Arman gets into a fight with a school bully and local pusher in an attempt to protect his crush Analuna (Lidija Kordić). As the story progresses, the two grow closer together and we see the boy with a completely different attitude from the one he gives to his parents: he can be kind and emotional, and not just angry and rebellious. He also shows a great level of protectiveness towards his brother four years his junior, who he takes to hang out with his mates, but still forbids to smoke or drink.
At home, Senad and Jasna frequently get into fights, frustrated by the way a hopeless economic and political situation is affecting their jobs, and uncertain of how to treat their sons. Arman feels more welcome and loved at his grandparents’, who are played by Jasna Ornela Bery and Emir Hadžihafizbegović.
This casting decision is what connects the narrative and social aspects of Tanović's film: the two actors have been playing parents in movies for the last 20 years, both together and individually, and now, they are cast as a grandpa and grandma. In a similar shift, Fehmiu played more of a son kind of character in Tanović's debut, Our Everyday Life [+see also:
interview: Ines Tanović
film profile], and now, he plays the father.
This inter-generational aspect is the foundation upon which the director builds her portrait of an aimless youth who do not care about their country’s recent bloody history and who, like their peers all around the world, spend most of their time glued to their smartphones, when they are not drinking, fighting, taking drugs or falling in love. A scene in which one of Arman's friends gets his hands on a bag full of weapons and goes to sell them in Syria, only to return in a coffin, anticipates the film’s intense finale.
While Our Everyday Life was true to its title, The Son has a more focused central storyline. Visually, Tanović again shows her penchant for multi-layered images (courtesy of Slovenian DoP Mitja Ličen), with each shot containing significant details in both the background and the foreground. While Fehmiu and Bogdanović excel in their roles, the young actors, most of them first-timers, finely pinpoint their youthful attitudes. Even if Bajrović seems to overact early in the film, we soon realise that this is a trait of the character, and not of the actor.
The Son is a co-production by Bosnia and Herzegovina's Dokument, Croatia's Spiritus Movens, Romania's Luna Film, Slovenia's Monoo and Montenegro's Cut Up, with the participation of HBO Europe and Cinema City.
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