Anna Jadowska’s character study of an older woman neglected by her loved ones in Woman on the Roof is a compelling, if bleak watch. A quiet film that shows us that life after your children have grown up is not as rosy as we hope it will be.
Mira, a 60-year-old woman, appears to have a normal life. One morning she starts her day like any other, wakes up early, puts her family’s clothes out to dry, purchases food for her fish and commits a bank robbery with a kitchen knife. She discovers her need for money is surpassed only by her need for love.
When hopelessness and sheer desperation come into your life, it is a horrible experience. It could be from anything, the trauma of losing a loved one, or in Mira’s case, having to cope with the same motions every day in a loveless marriage where even your own child disregards you. This scenario is one seen countless times over in the world, but it remains no less tragic. To go through life unhappy and unable to break away from that horrid regimen wears you down.
So to try and escape this inner turmoil, Mira does the unthinkable to get the attention, any attention that she desperately craves. She is struggling, and no one is listening until she has to resort to her cry for help. At all times, she is devastating you in this memorable film. Dorota Pomykala gives us a heartbreaking tour de force of a performance. You feel those struggles that she is battling with immense intensity.
This is highlighted by her son Mariusz and husband Julek, played by Adam Bobik and Bogdan Koca, respectively. Mariusz is dragging his feet in life, comfortable being looked after by his mother. Yet as soon as Mira begins to show her struggles outwardly, he is gone in a flash. The convenience of his life has been tampered with, and he has no time for that. Equally, Julek is positively cruel to Mira. She has to tiptoe around him continually, and his treatment of her is not what you would expect from a husband, hell not even an acquaintance would treat Mira as indifferently as he does.
What Jadowska has done here with Woman on the Roof is brilliant; the decision to wash out the screen and have it bright but not vibrant showcases how blighted Mira’s present is. Everything is moving along happily around her, but for her, it is verging on spiritless in her eyes. Usually, a character venturing into a dark place in their life is shot in darkness to show their gloom. Instead, the screen is dulled, causing us almost to become weighed down by the images. Desperate like Mira to see some sparks of colour that were once there.
You can’t help but feel compassion for Mira, something she has been without for goodness knows how long, and Jadowska keeps you there, continually concerned and hopeful for her throughout Woman on the Roof; what it does very well, though, is that it makes you fear insularly to your own ageing. Will people treat you the way Mira has been treated by her family?
Your fears become truly realised in this excellent film that manages to weigh us down just enough without making the whole viewing experience a slog. As a filmmaker, Anna Jadowska has a clear deft touch, making Woman on the Roof a must-watch.
Kinoteka Polish Film Festival 2023 takes place in venues across London 9 March – 27 April.
For further information and tickets: https://kinoteka.org.uk/
Other reviews from the festival so far!
The Hamlet Syndrome
Bread and Salt
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