Magazine article Screen International

'Don Juan': Review

Magazine article Screen International

'Don Juan': Review

Article excerpt

Dir. Jerzy Sladkowski. Sweden/Finland, 2015. 92 mins.

Don Juan is an unusual, perceptive, slightly off-beat film which looks at how we see and react to mental illness without ever really hectoring the viewer – although, frankly, there's quite enough yelling on screen as blousy Marina, single mother of 22-year-old Oleg, tries to get her autistic son to have a "complete" life in Nizhny Novgorod. This sensitive piece of documentary film-making, which competes at IDFA, seems destined for wide festival play and select arthouse distribution thanks to Jerzy Sladowski's kind camera and Oleg's generosity and shy, open heart.

Don Juan is quite unique; peopled by a cast of increasingly odd, gargoyle-like characters led by Marina, who will stop at nothing to get 'professional' psychiatric help for her 'lazy' son, a student of economics at the University of Nizhny Novgorod - but, in her eyes, a beloved loafer who is draining her of energy and money.

In pursuit of her goal, Marina engages every quack in town including a hilariously aggressive therapist called Sveta who slaps Oleg around the room and insists the terrified boy rides her like a donkey. There's a portly, track-suited elderly gent called The Colonel who tells Oleg that "In Russia, you can touch what you want - girls like persistence and pushiness". A psychiatrist holds out no hope for Oleg whatsoever and even Marina calls him useless and threatens to 'call the looney bin'.

"Everything about you is repulsive," she adds, for good measure, although we are in no doubt that Marina loves Oleg and that his progress thus far is probably due to her unstinting efforts. …

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