on September 21, 2007 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
When 90-year-old Antonia (Willeke van Ammelrooy) wakes one morning and decides this is the day she will die, the stage is set for a 50-year-long reverse angle on the lives and loves of a small Dutch village. That's to where a widowed Antonia returns with her daughter at the end of World War II. She settles in, begins a relationship with a local farmer, and slowly changes the fates of the villagers.
Marleen Gorris ("A Question of Silence" and "Broken Mirrors," both known for angry feminist statements) has muted her political passions here. "Antonia's Line" is concerned with independent, noncomformist women -- Antonia doesn't want to marry again, and her lesbian daughter wants a child but not a husband -- but the men with whom they interact are sympathetically portrayed and the heterosexual relationships are for the most part joyful and equal. There's a charm and easy manner to the story and to the characters that are very appealing.
But "Antonia's Line" isn't devoid of didacticism, particularly in a heavy-handed subplot about a rapist who runs afoul of Antonia's strong-minded daughter. More problematic is an overly generous helping of sentimentality. Subtlety coexists with obviousness, and the film's ruminations on the cycle of the seasons and life and death are not nearly as profound and observant as Gorris seems to think. "Antonia's Line" is a frustrating movie, because there's so much to admire about it, from the excellent performances (especially the pleasingly understated van Ammelrooy) to the light touch of the comedic situations. If only Gorris elsewhere had pandered less to her audience. Starring Willeke van Ammelrooy, Els Dottermans and Jan Decleir. Directed and written by Marleen Gorris. Produced by Hans de Weers. A First Look release. Comedy/drama. Dutch-language; subtitled. Not yet rated. Running time: 93 min.
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