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Materna Review: It Is A Deep Dark Portrait Of Working Women!





A psychological portrait of four women, whose lives are bound together by an incident on the New York City subway.

Rating: ***

Materna Review: There is a nagging haunting quietude at the heart of this wonderful little film, Materna,  about  four culturally  disparate  but emotionally  bonded woman  who  run into one  another in  the New York  subway. They  don’t know one another. But they soon will.

There  is a gnawing fatalism at  the  core  of this stark  brutal  study of bleak barren womanhood in Materna. After  the subway encounter(where something happens…what?…we don’t know  until the end) the  quartet  of heroines  move  apart.We are then taken to the home of  one of these women Jean (Kate Lyn Scheil, gloriously  grim).

Jean lives in a kind of   selfimposed punishing silence  that I imagine  Parveen Babi must have  favoured. This is the  kind of  asocial woman who could die today. There will be no one to knock on  her  door for days and weeks.

Jean has  serious mother issues. She is  also  pregnant with a child whom she self-aborts in a  bath tub using medicines  ordered online.In a  way Jean’s isolation  mimics  what happened during the pandemic.It is a frightening  portrait  of a woman on  the verge  of a nervous  breakdown…or has she  already  reached there?

Dark desperate  and  fiercely original, Materna, Jean’s story coalesces  with  the story of  a beautiful  black woman  Mona((Jade Eshete).Like  Jean, Mona has  serious  unresolved mom issues. Mom is  into evangelism. Mona  is an actor. The twain shall never meet. The mother motif merges  into  Mona’s performing propensity when  Mona’s actress-coach plays her mother in a  sequence that’s  raw  and  angry and all over  the  place.Mona  “lets it all  out”  in that moment when art converges with reality.

The third woman  from the subway is the angriest  of the four. Ruth (Lindsay Burdge) is Jewish.Her staunch  rigid  views  on religion are apparently  hampering her son’s  school education. The  story  places Ruth’s  spiritual beliefs  against her  brother’s  and finds them  wanting.

This episode  is  far too crowded  with ideas. The  four characters–  Ruth , her husband ,brother and son– construct  a claustrophobic  cavalcade . Her anger never quite  finds  an  anchor in the jostle and bustle.

The  fourth  and final episode is about three generations of woman trying to come  to terms with the death  of  a man  who is  son,husband and  father to the three women.

The story of Materna being  told here  is  much more than a  cursory glance at  a damaged  family. It is  quietly  effective and  regenerative and restorative . Healing and  comforting in  a strange   kind of way.The  three generation of actresses played  by Assol Abdullina, Jamal Seidakmatova and Zhamilya Sydykbaeva, are so invested into the tragedy it feels like  a personal loss.

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By the time Materna ends, the  audience is  none the wiser  about the  four  heroines. What hurts them so much? Why are they so isolated  self-destructive?  Do they  need  a helping hand? If  they do, they aren’t getting it from the men in  their life who are just not there.


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