“Matriarch” is a story of Jasna (Daria Lorenzi Flatz), who immigrated from Croatia to Germany, and her return to the hometown to help her sick mother Anka (Neva Rošić). Jure Pavlovic’s feature debut depicts an internal conflict of a daughter who left her home as a consequence of a traumatic childhood with a harsh mother.
The director, up until the visit of Jasna’s family from Germany, chooses to shoot everything realistically, through, mostly Jasna’s, close-ups (DoP Jana Plaćeš). With Jasna and her reactions being the focal point of most shots, the director gives the audience the space to conjure up the life “outside the camera”, on their own. It is also a chance to put our own family portraits into thought. By the norm, lack of frame variety and their fusion can lead to a feeling of claustrophobia, but in this case, what would be a deficiency becomes a functional component in understanding relations in the story, since there isn’t a feeling or a thought process in the mind of our protagonist that we missed. Although “Matriarch” visually only gives us Jasna’s side, it does show us an entirety of a mother-daughter relationship.
The only two professional actors in this film are mother Anka (Neva Rošić), and Jasna (Daria Lorenci Flatz). Jasna’s character is a constant reflection of an ongoing situation, but also of an internal battle between a girl who left her home and a woman feeling responsible for her dying mother in that same home. Being between wants and duties is a trait of our region, as well as being taught chores and responsibility from an early age. The rest of the film cast are amateur actors, so their dialogues preserve the authenticity of a Croatian small-town spirit. These dialogues, being unadulterated, are the source of humor, which seems to be a necessity for a film that regards old wounds and their healing. In the end, we get a sort of catharsis – a reconciliation between mother and her daughter and overcoming of former disagreements – in a family-gathering scene, on Jasna’s son’s birthday. This family home, once a place of painful memories, becomes a home of happiness.
“Matriarch” certainly belongs to the group of debut films that cast a light of tactile and subtle, but thoughtful approach to drama on the director, making us expect Jure Pavlović’s upcoming projects to be brave ones.
Ružica Anja Tadić, participant, Film critics' workshop