Berlin Film Review: ‘Lemonade’

Variety | 2/20/2018 | Guy Lodge
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The old adage about making sour fruit into sweet refreshment is implicit in the title of Romanian writer-director Ioana Uricaru’s promising first feature “Lemonade.” Martha Stewart herself, however, would be stumped by the wizened, acrid lemons our hapless heroine is handed in this heart-pinching hard-luck story from America’s green card-seeking margins. Bearing the tersely empathetic, socially conscious stamp of producer Cristian Mungiu, albeit with less of his pristine formal finesse, Uricaru’s tough study of a young migrant caretaker marrying hastily to secure the American Dream for herself and her young son is as damning of U.S. institutional corruption as Mungiu’s own work has been of Romanian authorities. Though Uricaru permits a dash of cockeyed hope into proceedings, an upright spine of against-the-system anger keeps “Lemonade” suitably tart throughout.

Mungiu’s prestigious imprimatur should help garner significant interest in “Lemonade” on the festival circuit following its Berlinale premiere, with select arthouse distribution for the American-set, predominantly English-language film a possibility in multiple territories. Following up on the striking segment she directed for 2009’s Mungiu-produced portmanteau “Tales from the Golden Age,” Uricaru’s film seems a calling card for bigger, bolder features to come, whether produced at home or abroad.

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The director drew on her own experiences as a Romanian immigrant in America for her lean but tightly plotted screenplay, co-written with Tatiana Ionascu, and the resulting film seethes with the conviction of lived experience — even if “Lemonade’s” heroine Mara (Malina Manovici) faces far grimmer prospects. We meet her in the midst of her processing by U.S. immigration authorities, as she’s medically examined and vaccinated without consultation: a demeaning experience that she shrugs off as being part of the system. Her older American husband Daniel (Dylan Scott Smith) is furious on her behalf, but Uricaru and Mara both know that such outrage...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Variety
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