Netherlands, 2013, 40 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Drama, Family Issues, Medical/HealthLanguage: Dutch
DIRECTOR: Mijke de Jong
The medium-length latest from Mijke de Jong (Bluebird, Katia’s Sister), a local festival favorite who was the subject of a well-deserved tribute at SDFF 35, Symbiosis stars the exceptional Elsie de Brauw (Believing) as Sophie, a middle-aged woman in the early stages of dementia. Sophie is the mother of mentally disabled adult son Koen (Fabian Jansen), who sobs uncontrollably when his mother stays longer than expected at a doctor’s appointment. Over the course of three weekend days, Symbiosis presents Koen’s extreme dependency on his always-attentive mother—a reliance that extends to bathtime—and Sophie’s reciprocal attachment to her son and his care, the mutual dependence that gives de Jong’s film its name.Given her increasing inability to look after her son, Sophie is faced with relinquishing full-time care, a fact that Koen’s father reminds her of when he asks if she has begun packing his things. She has not, and she remains reluctant to do so over the short span of the film’s story. Episodic in its elliptical presentation of the duo’s everyday, quotidian existence, Symbiosis emerges as a more visually and temporally straightforward variation on Alexander Sokurov’s ambiguous articulations of parent-child relations (Mother and Son, Father and Son). In de Jong’s hands, this very close bond instead provides an advantageous platform for de Brauw and Jansen’s remarkably brave performances.
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