Housekeeping for Beginners

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


Goran Stolevski (“Of an Age”) directs this affectionate if somewhat meandering look at Romani life in Macedonia. Colorfully produced and warmhearted with some good lines, the film falters a bit in its pacing with several argument scenes that weigh the momentum down. Nevertheless, the film is greatly boosted by its youngest cast member Dżada Selim who as a spunky seven-year-old, has the dramatic spirit of seven people.

While its chattering domestic intrigue may not be for everyone, the film is an honest take on a modern Romani family.

Dita (Anamaria Marinca) has a partner Sauda (Alina Serban) dying of cancer. Dita agrees to be a mom to Sauda’s kids Mia (Dżada Selim) and Vanesa (Mia Mustafi). A roommate Toni’s friend Ali (Samson Selim) is also here with bleached hair and nail polish. Roommate Toni is 45 years old while Ali is 19.

The personalities make a circus of sorts. They sing and argue. Every character is dysfunctional in minute ways, prone to ego and jealousy.

The pathos of likes and dislikes merge into petty arguments and harbingers of betrayal. Dita resents Toni’s sexual aggression and rightly so, but when it comes time for Vanesa and Mia to need a father, Toni steps into the role, agreeable but mystified. Dita and Toni begin to argue just like a heterosexual couple. Dita is especially vexed knowing well that parenting is not her strong point. Events take a terrible turn when Vanesa falls in with a group of sex traffickers.

There is disquiet here, but Ali comes to the fore as a protector.

While one’s senses might be quick to label the domestic entanglements nonsensical, braying, and chaotic, the naturalistic approach is absolutely authentic, textured in reality.

As previously stated, the narrative becomes bogged down by endless phone calls and bickering but young Mia, glib and irreverent, single-handedly saves the film with her innocently amoral one liners, free of judgment.

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