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CANNES 2014 Directors’ Fortnight

Refugiado: the love of a fleeing mother


- CANNES 2014: A finely subjective story on the necessary evasion of a woman with her son, who without forfeiting his purity, slowly grasps the gravity of the situation

There has been much support for the fourth feature film by Argentinian director Diego Lerman, who presented his film on the Croisette on May 22. Refugiado [+see also:
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not only united seven producers on both sides of the Atlantic, it also was very much wanted by Édouard Waintrop, head of Directors’ Fortnight, to the extent that two months before the Cannes Film Festival kicked off, just after the end of filming, Lerman threw himself into “wild post-production,” he told audiences, in order to present them with this delicate and modest insight into human relationships, more painful than ever.

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With more terror than enthusiasm, this rush can be found in the film. The two main characters, Laura (Julieta Diaz), a two-month pregnant mother, and Matias, her eight-year-old son, begin a journey of flight away from the son’s violent father. They will receive some help along the way, but hardly enough to escape the grips of a man she loved.

In the domestic violence refuge they find themselves in at the beginning, and where she continues to feel trapped, violence is just around the door: it manages to insert itself dangerously and comes out in the drawings of the child – a prisoner behind these grey walls, and in the stories of fellow playmates. Laura and her son get on the road again, looking for a new shelter away from the man who continues to call incessantly.

From one transition place to the next, silence gives us enough time to get to know the duo, up front and personal, but modestly so. The camera always keeps something between us and the main characters (a window, a ray of light, a storm…). Lerman shows the terror, which hardly ever leaves his main female character’s eyes, except when she tries to give some reassurance to her son during brief moments of tenderness, when she lets his head lay on her chest (femininity takes centre stage, while men remain close to bins and guarded places). This constant fear is so well communicated to spectators that a bunch of flowers left at a hotel’s reception for Laura is terrifying.

Despite this, what is most closely followed throughout this journey is the internal development of the young boy who is so closed in the beginning, submerged in a series of contradictory feelings he struggles to understand. These slowly emerge through a series of light moments of play, repressed rage (he does not know where he is going) and an increasing realisation that there is no way of turning back, together with a protective instinct towards his mother. And slowly slowly, the small boy who was wetting his bed and wondering whether he would ever see his classmates again comes to his first grown up decision, because it is time “for everything to end.”  

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(Translated from French)

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