It all starts with the fundamental nightmare: The little boy Robin is abused and severely traumatized in the children's home, where he spent some time until his parents seem fit to take care of him again.
The whole twenty minutes of social decay, neglect, anger and depressions that will follow, a veritable nightmare in itself that ends in a fatal catastrophe, can only be understood in the wake of the film's first minute, where Robin recalls his sojourn in the children's home – whatever happens, he will under no circumstances return to this place. He will stand his mother's overbearing devotedness and her shocking rejection, he will stand her loneliness and her lies and secrets, he will endure her boyfriend's drunken rages and abandonment, he will even tolerate the relentless screaming of the bundle that's introduced to him as his new sibling. This experiment can not fail. He can not go back there. He will, indeed, do anything. Anything.
Young Mateo Wansing-Lorrio keeps the fear in his eyes as the underage protagonist, but most of the laurels for his performance should go to Hanno Olderdissen for directing the boy and to editor Renata Salazar Ivancan, who intercuts the almost autistic gazes of the child with both a lot of depressing surroundings and some slight rays of beauty and hope, which don't come often or promising in this bleak German social housing project. There is no escape in Olderdissen's cinematic cosmos, no relief by music, no breaking the concentration by neat directorial tricks, no glossing it all up with images that make social injustice look romantic and picturesque. Just the story.
Even so, ROBIN, written by Clemente Fernandez-Gil, could have been a despicable piece of social sensationalism with characters living in poverty being displayed as bound to fail in any respect of family life, right down to the lowest requirement of keeping the kids alive. It is thanks to the intelligent script and the sensitive and sympathetic acting of German shooting star Franziska Jünger in the tour de force role of the mother unable to cope with her life and family that ROBIN escapes from this trap and instead becomes social filmmaking at its rawest and most disturbing. It is an unapologetic punch in the gut, a determined feel-bad movie if there ever was one, but also a masterful and layered study of what actually lies behind all those working class family tragedies that sometimes pop up in the tabloids to outraged commentaries, but are all too easily forgotten as yesterday's news. ROBIN not only creates a plausible scenario of how it could come to something like this – it also makes sure we don't forget about it anytime soon.
Interview with Hanno Olderdissen
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