(Editors note: Both films are part of TIFF’s 2017 Contemporary World Cinema Programme)
Director Zaida Bergroth’s Miami stars Krista Kosonen as Angela a charming show dancer and Sonja Kuittinen as her small town sister Anna. Anna finds her long lost sister and through admiration and a need for connection runs off with her on a dance tour. Angela shady past starts to unravel while Anna adapts to a life of crime to help her sister, and eventually their mutual, situation.
The chemistry between the leads, Kosonen and Kuittenen enhances their roles. Kosonen shines as a flighty and vulnerable sort while Kuittenen delivers a skilled performance that evolves her charater from a naive young girl to a quick learning, but clever criminal. They bring out the best in each other’s on screen work which makes the film a compelling watch.
My only complaints would be with the length of this film due to the overused music video-like moments. I get that Angela’s dances and her reconnection with her sister through them are a big part of the film. However, there was definitely that time could’ve been better used to highlight the actresses talents to further the plot or grab a viewer’s sympathetic notes to their characters. Not to say the soundtrack was flawed at all, rather it is quite good, noting the kind of retro-80s escapist trends in modern film. But it worked better as a highlight, rather than a focus.
Bergoth’s is a director to watch for since she has an eye for local scenery and tight focus on her camera to capture mood and empathy for her characters and the land in which they’re lives are set out.
The heartbreak of separation hardly gets played out through the eyes of the children effected by it. In Nina, director Juraj Lehotsky attempts to do that while also having a complicated, but compassionate look at the parents who are trying to keep some semblance of normalcy for their child.
Nina (Bibiana Nováková) is a precocious adolescent who enjoys competitive swimming over much needed day to day schooling. Her mother (Petra Fornayová) is trying to get on with her life after her separation from Nina’s father (Robert Roth). The father is reclusive, but a hard worker and cares for his daughter immensely, allotting her freedoms her mother does not. Things get messy when Nina misses out on school due to wanting to escape the reality of a broken family and the isolation that imposes on her young self.
While rendered in a minimalist style, the film maintains an arthouse tone to landscapes that depict shipyard and construction scenery. This depicts a metaphorical background of destruction and building up to Nina’s internal struggle. Her love for her father is equal to that of her mother’s. But it is in the constant shifting of her surroundings that she unable to find solid ground to grow from. Her rebellion is expressed in dreamlike and subtly fantastical sequences that may catch the viewer unawares, but colours the sepia-like film with emotions.
I found Nina to be quiet and slow, but which works in its favour as a realistic portrayal of three worlds caught in a need for resolution.