Handle with Care: "It’s just you and me"
by Fabien Lemercier
- Norwegian filmmaker Arild Andresen explores the bond between a father and son, taking a helpless widower and his very young adopted child to Colombia
Generally approached from the perspective of Europeans looking for children in disadvantaged countries (as in Holy Lola) or that of an adoptee in a new family environment and his relationship with his roots (Live and Become [+see also:
interview: Denis Carot
interview: Didar Domehri
interview: Radu Mihaileanu
film profile], Secrets et mensonges, Lion [+see also:
film profile], A Brand New Life [+see also:
film profile], Approved for Adoption [+see also:
film profile], etc.), Arild Andresen tackles the subject of adoption in a much more original manner with Handle with Care [+see also:
interview: Arild Andresen
film profile], screened in competition at the 18th Arras Film Festival.
From Stavanger to Bogota, it’s a sort of less friendly B-side, the process chosen by the Norwegian director (noted for his first two feature films The Liverpool Goalie [+see also:
film profile] and The Orheim Company [+see also:
film profile]) to explore the lack of love of an adoptive father and his intention to return his very young son to his native country (in order to relieve himself of his duties). An initial situation with a potential for apathy (a Westerner seeking to get rid of the innocent child he removed from his original fate, that he now feels is a burden), which the filmmaker partly and skilfully defuses (by the pain associated with widowhood), leading the two main characters on an exploratory journey to another continent.
"He's not my son. All we have in common is Camilla. Now it's just the two of us and I’m unable to feel anything for him anymore. Is it possible that there might be a better place for him in another family?" Since the accidental death of his wife, the Norwegian KJjetil (the excellent Kristoffer Joner, Amanda 2017 award for best actor in The Wave [+see also:
interview: Roar Uthaug
film profile] and also noticed for his performance in The Revenant) does not know what to do with Daniel (Kristoffer Bech), six years old and adopted two years earlier in Colombia. His work as an employee on an oil drilling rig, his psychological state (he is completely wiped out by his wife's passing) and his very weak emotional proximity to the child (unsure of how to deal with him, easily getting upset), who is also very disturbed by Camilla's death ("I hate you, I want mum") all contribute to an environment of growing reciprocal animosity that social workers and psychologists are unable to defuse ("it's too late to be thinking this way. You're a father now"). Desperate for a way out, KJjetil decides to return to Colombia with Daniel, in order to find his biological mother, embarking on a somewhat mission impossible to Bogota with the help of a taxi driver (Marlon Moreno).
Lying to others and oneself, the stifling sense of responsibility under pretence, the shudder of guilt and one’s own conscience: through the complex character of KJjetil and a perfectly structured story (script written by the director with Hilde Susan Jægtnes and Jorge Camacho) Handle with Care dissects the two sides to adoption (father/son, two countries, two cultures) and the subject of the relationship between them. With excellent and poignant performances, the film avoids the trap of melodrama and manages to give a realistic touch to the Colombian trip, without pretending to delve any deeper than a savvy traveller might. A good distance and effective narration that slips into something a tad artificially positive at the end, but that nevertheless leans towards the heart of a film that accurately highlights the questions surrounding the communication of feelings and self-awareness.
Produced by Motlys, Handle with Care was co-produced by the Dutch The Film Kitchen company, the Danish SF Film company and the Norwegian GOfilm. International sales are managed by the French company Playtime.
(Translated from French)
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