Just as the year draws to a close, we got one of the best dramas of the whole year. The Lesson is pretty much flawless in its telling of one character being put through the wringer. How much can one woman take? Pop into the IFI to see.
The Lesson (Urok)
Cert: IFI Club
IMAGINE the worst day at the office you’ve had. Multiply it by five, chuck in a faltering economy and an unsympathetic spouse, and you’re approaching the kind of thing endured by the central protagonist in this muscular Bulgarian morality drama.
Appearing in every scene here, Margita Gosheva is outstanding as Nadezhda, a diligent, tidy senior-school teacher trying to catch the student who pinched cash from her purse. She is unsuccessful and the repercussions and stresses of this defeat are carried home and exacerbated when she learns that her no-hoper husband has been spending her salary on repairing a busted campervan rather than lodging the mortgage repayments. The bank is now past the point of reminder letters and proceeds with repossessing Nadezhda’s family home.
She turns to her flush father for help but cannot accept that he took up with a much younger woman following her mother’s death. Meanwhile, the gods conspire against her in cruel ways, from snooty bank tellers to dying car engines.
There is a minimal but incisive rhythm in the way co-directors Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov build a wall around Nadezhda and push her to the edge of bourgeois respectability. A score is unnecessary when the storytelling is this assured, while there is a quiet artistry in the framing that packs a punch.
Gosheva’s is surely one of the great female lead performances of the year.
First published in the Sunday Independent