No Home Movie (2015)

Akerman’s final film, shot in long takes that aren’t always compelling, features her late mother in the domesticity of her home as they enjoy the conversations and comfortable silences.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review #2,325

Dir Chantal Akerman
2015 | Belgium/France | Documentary | 113 mins | 1.85:1 | French, English & Spanish
PG (passed clean)

Plot: The director paints a loving portrait of her beloved mother in her own home in the final days before her passing.
Awards: Nom. for Golden Leopard (Locarno)
International Sales: Doc & Film International

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Mother-Daughter Relationship
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Slow
Audience Type: General Arthouse

Viewed: MUBI
Spoilers: No

Chantal Akerman’s final film may seem nondescript at first glance.  After all, it is literally a home movie featuring her mother in the months before she passed on. 

In that sense, it is a loving audiovisual memory of a loved one, and one could feel the mother-daughter compassion emanating from Akerman’s camera (sometimes handheld, other times positioned statically on a table). 

But it is also shot in long takes, in the spirit of slow cinema, but not quite achieving anything remotely transcendental.  The limitations are obvious, of course—how much more compelling can you shoot a film in the interiors of an apartment, and one that features the domesticity of existence? 

Granted there are several extreme wide shots of the landscape or travelling shots in a car, but they don’t necessarily break the humdrum. 

“Tell me, why are you filming me like that?”

No Home Movie reminds me of two other documentaries: Jafar Panahi’s This Is Not a Film (2011) and Corneliu Porumboiu’s The Second Game (2014).  The former is also a home movie, made out of necessity by an artist under house arrest. 

Similarly, Akerman’s film is also borne out of necessity, but of a different kind—to preserve her mother from a second spiritual death. 

Porumboiu’s work, featuring a conversation between the director and his father as they watch an old taped football match, is in the spirit of Akerman’s work, but is far colder and less meaningful. 

Having said all that, it is the actual spirit of Akerman that continues to haunt No Home Movie—just two months after it world-premiered at Locarno, the Belgian filmmaker took her own life. 

The spectres of Akerman and her mother are what would provide the necessary context that elevates the film from its no-frills minimalism.  Whether it is successful in doing so is up to the viewer.

Grade: B


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