Raw and continually on edge, Alina Grigore’s Blue Moon is a chaotic family portrait that purposely overwhelms poor Irina and its audience. Throwing everything at our senses, her restless camera never gives you a moment to breathe—a strong debut.
22-year-old Irina (Iona Chitu) lives in the mountains, where her family runs a hotel. She looks after the books but is desperate to finally start her studies in Bucharest, far from the controlling patriarchy that has kept a tight leash over her life. Unfortunately, her volatile, controlling cousin, Liviu (Mircea Postelnicu), is determined to keep her and her sister in their place.
Irina never appears to have a minute to herself in Blue Moon; her family continually hounds her to complete jobs or be someone’s sounding board. So when her idea of moving away from the university to Bucharest instead of a local university or one in London where she can live with her brother is roundly lambasted by her family, she begins to feel her pent up frustration begin to overwhelm her.
While her two male cousins are the face of the business, she is the one sorting out all of the finances, the unofficial accountant. Yet she is constantly yelled at and rarely lifts her head up unless she is striking out at someone. As much as she needs space and freedom, she needs to grab her confidence in herself and for Irina to come out of that shell and be the person she should be. Regardless of how the male people in her family feel about it.
Symbolising this is a scene at the tail end of the film. Irina is given a spiel about why she and the other women in the family want to leave the hotel the business and have the lives they want. It is horribly manipulative but truly authentic. This family is as possessive as they come, and if you are to leave it, it has to be on their terms and only so you can come back to improve the business.
You sense that their attitude to her is almost to wear her down so that she never moves as she has become far too valuable an asset to them and the business. When one tries to complete an invoice himself, he gets all the figures wrong, so Irina has to trail along with him to go and correct his mistake. There is a desperation in all of the anger with the men, whether that is feeling inadequate to the intelligent woman or the true fear of losing her and paying an ungodly sum for a qualified accountant to help with the business.
Leaving someone as bright as Irina firmly between a rock and a hard place, she loves her family. Still, with how dysfunctional they all are, she has to decide what is best, go off and live the life she thinks she should, or do what the family needs her to and for her to wallow forever. Her sister Victoria is as desperate to escape the unrelenting grip of their male cousins and so begins their fight for what is best for them.
Blue Moon encapsulates these moments very well. But, unfortunately, it just so happens that somehow within 85 minutes, it feels as if we see the same bursts of anger and confrontation in the garden again and again. Yes, that shows how under the thumb the women are and how they should, in the men’s eyes, be grateful, but it becomes almost draining for the audience. By repeating themselves with only the slightest of deviations, instead of moving the film forwards, it feels as if we are stuck, waiting for a moment where there is a massive reason for the next explosion of emotions.
Sadly, some moments seem tacked on to give the entire cast something meaningful; some of the family have a subplot that is never really fleshed out and detracts from the story of Irina and Victoria. We know the two have all the reasons in the world to leave. However, concentrating on what others are doing takes us away from their journey, whether to leave or go.
Where the script falters at times in Blue Moon by just being so busy (and with a family like this, you understand why that is the case), Grigore actually excels in her direction. Scenes and moments build terrifically well. With a camera that point-blank refuses to stay still for a moment, it follows everyone around trying and sometimes missing moments due to the frenetic nature of it all. That said, it is just wholly overwhelming to keep track of everything, and as she has overplayed her hand touch, it would have been wiser to allow audiences to get more gulps of air.
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