A single mother, Kathi, played superbly by a doe-eyed Anna Suk, earns day release from jail and heads to her mom’s home where she discovers that mom, Eva, played equally superbly by veteran thespian Birgit Linauer, has been doing a shabby job as a grandmother taking care of her three-year-old grandson. Eva is a model of someone lashed by harsh verities of life, and, now, it’s as if every moment she’s teetering on the bring of a meltdown. Expected to care for Chris? She can barely take care of herself.
Scenes of Kathi and Eva interacting early in the film bristle with kinetic acrimony. Kathi’s sharp-tongue expletives about her mom’s shabby care of her son hardly seemed to make an impression with her mom, obviously numbed out by too much pain doled out to her in life. This reviewer sympathized with Kathi even as he flinched at the excoriation of her mom.
The fear that her son, Christopher, played surprisingly well by a toddling Christopher Legedza, is destined for the same losers’ paths as his mom and grandmother, causes Kathi to embark on what struck this reviewer as a figurative, spiritual and existential urban walkabout. That is, a desperate human being embarks on a mission fraught with challenges to find a way to spare her son an awful fate. Kathi sets off to find support from people she knows, even as she’s broke, pretty much friendless, almost destitute to the point that she has to beg for money on the street as she holds Christopher in hear arms. She is irresolute, nevertheless, even as fate seems to sneer at every venture Kathi tries.
Sisyphus would shudder at what Kathi has to do – and do it in time to be back at jail at 6 p.m. when her day release ends. Show up late and no more releases, maybe even more jail time. Failure to find a solution on her walkabout means failure to help her son. Talk about a hellacious deadline.
She catches up with the child’s father, a prosperous looking pretentious gent who wants nothing to do with Christopher nor Kathi because he is married and his wife is now expecting. There scenes together are rich but not as nasty as Kathi’s interactions with her mom. Though there is one scene that Kathi’s wrath almost gets them killed. There are delicious scenes with others in Kathi’s walkabout.
Director Martin Winter, Writer Sebastain Schmidl, Cinematographer Aram Baroian and Valentin Martins’ film is a powerful visual novella. I am not exaggerating that it looked as if every scene in DAY RELEASE was picture perfect, as if every scene streaming was endowed with picturesque awe that needed to be relished more time than it was getting on the screen. DAY RELEASE is thick with surprises and revelations. Hint: I didn’t think much of Eva the grandmother despite her anguish. That impression and other impressions were washed away in an “I Can’t Breathe” scene that almost made me gasped.
And the filmmakers did all this in less than 20 minutes. Whew!
There are movies that blew us out of our theater seats not so long ago when theaters were open and the greatest risks patrons faced were stale popcorn or long lines at the bathrooms but not a lethal virus infection. Now, some can blow us out of the seating in front of the home screens during these #StayAtHome days. DAY RELEASE will sweep viewers away in so many ways, on so many levels, no matter the viewing venue.
DAY RELEASE was filmed on location in Vienna and Lower Austria and is a remarkable poor, working class Everywoman story for single moms wherever they are foraging on this planet. No one, and I mean no one, should put off seeing this movie because of its English subtitles.
Director: Martin Winter
Writer: Sebastian Schmidl
Stars: Anna Suk, Christopher Legedza, Birgit Linauer
Music by Valentin Martins
Cinematography by Aram Baroian
Gregg W. Morris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com