One of the toughest parts of being a parent is knowing when to get involved and when to step back. The desire to protect your children at all costs becomes inherent from the day they are born. This unconditional love is explored in the most dubious way in Călin Peter Netzer’s exceptional film Child’s Pose.

The film tracks the turbulent relationship between a mother, Cornelia (Luminita Gheorghiu) and her son, Barbu (Bogdan Dumitrache). Cornelia usually gets what she wants out of life, but finds her relationship with Barbu to be hostile and strained. Tired of his mother constantly meddling in his life, Barbu frequently speaks to his mother in a vulgar tone and wants nothing more to do with her. However, when Barbu gets into a car accident which results in the death of a young boy, Cornelia must do everything in her power to ensure that he avoids jail. This includes resorting to manipulation and bribery.

Cornelia’s willingness to exist in that realm of moral ambiguity is what makes her such a riveting character. Her actions stem from a place of love, but her motivations often get trumped by her need to control and exploit every situation. This is extremely evident in the film’s most powerful moment when Cornelia sits down with the dead boy’s grieving parents. Though genuinely saddened by their child’s death, Cornelia’s sinister motivations remain present as she not so subtly tries to sell the couple on why her son’s life should not be ruined. It is a complex scene in which both her motherly love and abuse of financial power become intertwined to the point where they are almost indistinguishable.

The fascinating thing about Child’s Pose is that, despite the despicable things she does, you cannot help but remain on Cornelia’s side. Luminita Gheorghiu is sensational as the overbearing Cornelia. She gives the character a bluntness that makes it easy to understand why Barbu is a shell of a man. As much as Barbu claims to despise his mother, he frequently asks her to do all the things he is not man enough to do. His hatred of her only comes in to play when things are not convenient for him. The same can be said for those, such as the local police or the eye witness, who subtly and not so subtly try to exploit Cornelia’s wealth and social status for their own benefit.

This is not to say that Cornelia is a victim of circumstance, far from it, but she is trying to clean up her son’s mess the only way she knows how. When looking at the film, everyone has a significant role to play. What most of the characters seem to forget is that, at the end of the day, a child’s life was lost. Child’s Pose is a complex and captivating film, that like its main character, frequently blurs the moral lines.

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