Binding Sentiments (1969)

A recently-widowed mother who yearns to be independent and her overprotective son cross paths in what is a slightly nondescript second feature from Meszaros about the perceived strengths and weaknesses of familial bonds.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review #2,149

Dir. Marta Meszaros
1969 | Hungary | Drama | 83 mins | 2.35:1 | Hungarian
Not rated – likely to be PG13 for some sexual references

Cast: Mari Torocsik, Kati Kovacs, Lajos Balazsovits
Plot: After her husband dies, a woman questions her love for her husband and whether or not to accept money from the insurance policy. Tensions mount when her estranged son returns to the familial home with his girlfriend.
Awards: –
Source: Hungarian National Film Archive

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Family, Mother-Son
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: General Arthouse

Viewed: MUBI
Spoilers: No

Family is a complicated business.  In Marta Meszaros’ second feature (after she made history as the first Hungarian woman to direct a feature with 1968’s The Girl), the relationship between a mother and her son is put to an extreme test, with the son’s girlfriend (played by Hungarian singer-turned-actress Kati Kovacs) functioning as collateral. 

As the title suggests, Binding Sentiments is about the perceived strengths and weaknesses of familial bonds—can we ever eschew sentiment when it comes to issues of family? 

The mother, recently widowed, yearns to be an independent woman, finally being free from the ‘patriarchy’ of her present family, even if it means giving up on a small fortune left behind by her husband. 

The son, however, insists she stays—his overprotective, by-whatever-means-necessary attitude causing some consternation to his girlfriend, who is forced to keep his mother indoors to prevent her from ‘escaping’. 

Compared to The Girl, Binding Sentiments is less engaging; its rather nondescript storytelling style doesn’t quite excite, nor do its visuals which lack the vibrancy of her feature debut. 

Nonetheless, one might sense Meszaros’ intent in depicting not just the toxic relationship between mother and son, but how this affects the girlfriend mentally. 

Surely she would give it enough thought about marrying into this family—that the chains of sentiments may not necessarily be borne—or bonded—out of the heart. 

Binding Sentiments is worth more than just a cursory look for those interested in the early works of the prolific Hungarian filmmaker. 

Grade: B


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