Mother Died Today

written by Katerina Lambrinova


There are different ways to approach the subject of the death of a parent. Certainly Jacqueline Lentzou, writer and director of the short fiction Fox (Greece, 2016), has found an interesting perspective on the subject. She employs a well working concept - a dramaturgical frame that marks the tragic event. Another good dramaturgical decision is to set most of the action in one place, during the course of (almost) one single very hot summer day.

In the morning Stephanos (an angry teenager, probably under 18), has a fight with his mother (a nice looking woman in her forties), about the fact that she will be staying at her boyfriend’s for the night. After the conflict he ends up with the responsibility to take care of his two younger siblings and their family dog alone. At the same time that we see his mother’s car crash in the middle of the road, he invites his girlfriend to come along to the house. It’s not at all coincidental that these events are happening in the same time. It feels like a quantum split, occurring in Stephanos’s life and finally he is about to get his matureness and independency, but the hard way.

The scenes of summer laziness among pizza boxes and sprinkling water, dancing and adolescent flirting are caught in long and light poetic shots. But along with the feeling of easiness, created by the imagery, we can also feel that there is a tension building up in the air. The phone is constantly ringing, but nobody answers. Suddenly, one of the kids finds out that the dog has died. Stephanos tries to act all mature and buries her in the garden, while the kids are begging him to wait for their mother to return. At the end, Stephanos finally picks up the phone and realizes that this has been the last carefree day of their lives.

Fox, which was pitched at the Berlinale Short Film Station 2015, was later on selected for the short film competitions of Locarno and Sarajevo. It is easy to understand what has attracted festival programmers in Jacqueline Lentzou’s film. It has a very compact, elliptic plot, which raises questions about the consequences of the death of a close one.

As strong as the build-up of the suspense, the film has some minor problems, that undermine its power. For instance: the car crash at the beginning has a different tone and also the girlfriend suprisigly disappears from the action without further notice. But what’s more important is that the director has achieved an overall poetic form in her visual style and narrative and her work with the actors is filled with spontaneity and sincerity.