Unwanted kids need to face undecided mother and father in the new Lithuanian drama by Ernestas Jankauskas.
90% of Lithuanians won't even consider adoption as an option, states director Ernestas Jankauskas on his lovingly unfolding drama (and first feature) Sasha Was Here.
Sasha was here tells a story about an infertile couple who comes to foster home to adopt their dream little girl but instead they are offered a rebellious 12-year old boy. The three spend a day together while re-discovering the concept of family. The film raises the question – if the family we have is not the one we wanted, is it still a family?
Supported by a grant from the Lithuanian Film Centre and produced in co-operation with Angel Films (Finland), the Lithuanian drama is an engaging (if not absorbing) character study mostly than society mores. Jurga (Gabija Siurbytė) balancing between past traumas and secretly coveted hopes, has decided to adopt a girl, when she discovers she can no longer have a child. Her always supporting husband Tomas (Valentin Novopolskij) would agree, and there are two obstacles to handle: Jurga's own conservative family (the female leads are here in direct opposition to Jurga's plans), and the state bureaucracy, who has its own way of confusing things.
In a nutshell, both parents are fooled into taking into their own custody a 12-year-old abandoned boy; Alexander -call me Sasha- Kovalevsky (an excellent Markas Eimontas) is unruly, has a mildly delinquent behavior, and is no a sweet-to-be adopted son. But (here's the rub) Sasha is also sensitive, inquisitive and can still connect with people -if he chooses to.
The first in line to get along with Sasha is Tomas - word playing in a car makes up for lost time; uneasy situations that preceded when taking Sasha for a one-day trial adventure trip seem gradually to mellow out. The custody test for adoption (provided by a stern but caring, in her own way, orphanage official) won't really backfire, even if Sasha can't go to the seaside, as he really seems to delight to. But he can join a forest adventure and a black trail instead. This is the moment where Jurga has to face her own fragility, and be ready to jump into the unknown.
Told in flashback sequences as a case of a narrative riddle to be sold rather than a fragmented corpus of facts, Sasha Was Here deals primarily with past worries (Jurga's fears and tribulations take center stage here) than present nightmares. The most dramatic event that takes place, Sasha's disappearance (almost pre-told from his early behavior) will bring the wannabe family together, but is hastily dealt here. What matters is reconciliation with your own past, and Gabija Siurbytė's performance brings a lot of the inner fight she has to face.
Here's one instance that a longer cut would actually benefit the film; still, the low-budget Sasha Was Here brings persons and characters (instead of clichés) to the fore, and its gentle cinematography and soundtrack supports the main issue. Adoption is a matter of affection, not a matter of course.
“Sasha was here” (original “Čia buvo Saša”, 94', Lithuania)
Director: Production company- Dansu films (Lithuania) in cooperation with Angel Films (Finland)
Funded by Lithuanian Film Centre
Director - Ernestas Jankauskas
Script writer - Birutė Kapustinskaitė
Producers - Rūta Petronytė, Gabija Siurbytė
Co-producer - Ville Penttilä
DOP - Feliksas Abrukausas lAC
Production designer - Paulius Jurevičius
Editor - Dominykas KilčiauskasComposers - Paulius Kilbauskas, Vygintas Kisevičius
Jurga – Gabija Siurbytė
Tomas – Valentin Novopolskij
Saša – Markas Eimontas