Cristi Puiu’s Sieranevada is a kitchen sink comedy drama that would have been excellent if it had been tighter.
Doctor Lary and his wife are on their way to a family gathering. Lary’s family are coming together for a lunch and commemoration. As the family prepare for the service, they await guests and welcome unexpected arrivals…
Writer-director Cristi Puiu’s Sieranevada is a chamber piece that rewards its viewers for their patience. Most of action takes place in one apartment. Puiu’s camera work is non-intrusive, keeping to the corners. The frequent tracking shots in to the different rooms give a flavour of the various tangents progressing, as well as a sense of claustrophobia. It is easy to see how tensions rise in this atmosphere, given the number of people and the reason for the gathering.
A realist drama, there are various dynamics at play in Sieranevada. It takes some time before the tying in theme emerges. At first, the tangents on display feel quite disparate. The conversations on terrorism and current affairs seem at odds with the other more personal issues. Yet, as the film progresses, the various narratives tie in to an overarching theme. This is done in a subtle fashion, which works well. The dysfunctional family dynamic worked really well at times. There are many moments of humour in what is a sombre occasion, and time for reflection.
The main detraction in Sieranevada is the film’s length. At times, the film is engrossing. Yet there are times the momentum slips. As the film progresses, it takes longer to recover this momentum. Given the nature of the film, it is difficult to predict an ending. Thus, viewers may think the film is about to end a fair way before it actually does. Performances in the film are good, particularly Mimi Branescu’s Lary.
Puiu’s skill is in his ability to depict authentic situations, and adeptly move from comedy to tragedy. It is a shame he didn’t trim some of Sieranevada‘s fat.
Sieranevada is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2016.