The UK premiere BURNOUT by German film director Verena S. Freytag enriches this year’s Cambridge Film Festival with the heartening story of Pelin, a single mother of three kids, – seemingly all from different fathers – in Berlin, who, as if it was not enough, also loses her job as a tattooist. The film gets straight into the practicalities of the harshness of her condition by showing the lack of support she receives from the social institutions she appeals to for help, whether the city council or the school. Within ten minutes from the beginning a sense of desperation kicks in until the first climax of the film dramatically shows the effects of Pelin’s naivety as a mother, when her son accidentally eats her boyfriend’s drugs and nearly gets killed by them.
The ‘unglamorous’ camera work suggests the director’s intention to document and raise attention to the universal issues around both single-motherhood and children being raised within unstable contexts; simultaneously, the portrayal of Pelin’s emotionally charged personality and her children’s unconditional love no matter the difficulty of the circumstances brings to this unusual ‘coming of age (of reason)’ tale a very personal touch. ‘Ich bin eine gute Mutter’ (‘I am a good mother’) resounds significantly throughout the court room at the moment the social services are deciding to send Pelin’s children to a foster family. Pelin’s determination to make up for her mistakes and maturely take responsibility over what most counts in her life is realistically sided by the struggles she faces in growing out of an ‘out-of-order’ life. Avoiding the clichés of a contrived sweet ending to Pelin’s circumstances, Freytag’s film nevertheless infuses the viewers with its protagonists’ (mother and sons) outstanding sense of unity and longing for a better future.
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