Originally posted here.
Growing up is the long and upsetting process of abandoning your parents. This abandonment comes in at least two guises: the change of your personality as you become an adult; or the more literal version, whereby you leave home for an opportunity away from the family. It’s this second scenario (with hints of the first) that occupies the interest of Loveling, a stirring, heartfelt drama from director Gustavo Pizzi.
Irene (Karine Teles), a mother of four, is just about to graduate from high school; it’s suggested that she was abused by a former employer, and didn’t finish her exams because of it. She tries to make as much money as possible by selling fabric out of her sister’s van, but financially it’s always quite tight. Irene’s worries are worsened when her son, Fernando (Konstantinos Sarris), a promising young handball player, is spotted by a talent scout during a game and offered a place at a prestigious sports academy in Germany. (Incidentally, this is, along with Ilian Metev’s tremendous ¾, the second quiet, lovely, observational drama of this year’s EIFF to centre on the familial effects of a child being offered a place to study in Germany: festival programmers really are poets.)
Loveling is an honest portrait of a family’s worries and happinesses, but it’s most impressive for the fact these always exist simultaneously. When Fernando wins his team’s handball game, the players and fans erupt into joyous celebration, a brass band playing as they wrap themselves around each other; as Irene applauds from the sideline, her sister Sônia (Adriana Esteves) approaches her, oversized sunglasses hiding the results of her husband’s latest assault. (We know from Irene’s face that this isn’t the first time.) The movie handles this duality with great sensitivity, just as it does with the central conceit: the mother is both delighted and appalled that her son is leaving her; happy that he has a chance to hone his talent, dismayed that this has to happen away from her.
It must be said that while it’s tightly assembled and nicely edited, it’s somewhat unadventurous formally. This wouldn’t be noteworthy except for that one minute of exquisite movement, in which Irene and her husband Klaus (Otávio Müller) investigate one of his get-rich-quick schemes. The camera mostly stays behind their heads, gliding as they move, sun-dappled in the light of the hills. It’s a painterly moment, and I only wish there were a few more of them.