This involving tale of a fragmented mother-daughter relationship hits all its intended emotional marks through its appreciated realism. Mückstein’s potent little debut film speaks softly and convincingly with its lean and low key storytelling, never demanding our compassion but certainly commanding it.
Eva (Nina Proll) has recently been released from prison yet shows more enthusiasm for her mundane job of picking weeds off plans than reconnecting with her 14 year old daughter, Jasmin (Sophie Stockinger). Jasmin appears to have a perfectly loving and stable adoptive family but cannot begin to feel at home in that home. There’s a definite resentment from her at the conditions life has presented and before she’s due to holiday in Italy with her faux parents and sister, she runs away from home and convinces Eva to holiday with her in an idyllic spot of nature. The hopes for a weekend of maternal love growing into something more permanent dissipate as her youthful naivety at the ability to change circumstances and rewrite the last 14 years brings heartache for Jasmin and the audience.
Mückstein courageously doesn’t condemn Eva or the petulance of Jasmin, instead remaining honestly impartial in her portrayal of a sadly ironic and disconnected relationship where you barely know the person that you feel you should be closest to and love the most. They both change in between the times that they sporadically meet, akin to meeting a stranger every time in your reservations and timidness. Eva is simply not up to the job of being a mother, holding a conflicting desire for connecting with a male love interest while also trying doing the same with her estranged daughter. In a touching and poignant moment when she cries in bed cuddling Jasmin to sleep, you don’t know whether it’s because of wishing she could’ve done this every night for the past 10 years or because she knows that she can’t meet Jasmin’s expectations of a mother.
We’re rewarded as an audience through seeing the catalyst of growth in Jasmin as she finally decides to learn to swim – literally and figuratively – and learn to live life without the help of her biological mum. This is true freedom for our protagonist, not the freedom she states in the hotel room during her futile weekend away. Jasmin’s future appears ready to blossom, much like Mückstein’s after this impressive first effort.