South Africa/USA, 2009, 92 minutes
Sat, Apr 24 / 4:15 / PFA / SHIR24P
Tue, Apr 27 / 3:15 / Kabuki / SHIR27K
Thu, Apr 29 / 9:15 / Kabuki / SHIR29K
Fri, Apr 30 / 7:00 / Kabuki / SHIR30K
In an impoverished district on the outskirts of Cape Town, single mother Shirley Adams cares for her teenage son Donovan, recently left paralyzed by stray gunfire from a gang shootout. Determined but weary, Shirley endeavors to lift her son’s spirits with cheerful, inconsequential chatter, but the boy is overwhelmed by their necessary intimacy, depressed by his situation and starved for other company. When a third party, a cheery nurse named Tamsin, enters the household, the film develops into a careful and complex study of how a mother’s love can overwhelm. Shirley is a good and selfless caretaker, but her resentment of Tamsin’s advice and immediate camaraderie with her son evince a need to be the main focus of her child’s life, a pull towards martyrdom. Donovan is equally well drawn, shifting quickly from surly teen to loving son to needful patient, all the while questioning the validity of a life severely curtailed. With a camera focusing intently and closely on Shirley’s every move, however, she remains the focus of the film and Denise Newman, a major star in South Africa, is riveting in the title role. Without drawing attention to the performance through histrionics or easy tears, she brings forth her character’s noble intentions and gives subtle shades to her flaws. Forgoing sentimentality or a tidy emotional catharsis, first-time filmmaker Oliver Hermanus creates a powerful and humane drama.
Presented in association with Global Film Initiative. New Directors Prize Contender.