As newborns, we enter life helpless and unprepared to satisfy the basic needs of our existence. For years, we are dependent on others for survival, ignorant of the burden we put on those who make our futures possible: our long-suffering parents.
Sundance 2016's Mi Amiga del Parque (2015) explores the new parent experience from the angle of a mother's tremendous insecurities about being a first-time parent. The Argentina-Uruguay co-production, written and directed by Ana Katz, illustrates that taking care of a child is not meant to be done alone and reminds us that people from all backgrounds, classes and countries share common fears of the responsibility for a tiny person’s life. In tapping into this core human experience, Mi Amiga Del Parque arrives at a universal representation of parenthood.
Mi Amiga del Parque (2015)
The film’s drama lives in its dedicated attention to small, genuine details. Realistic moments when Liz (Julieta Zylberberg) doesn’t know how to grasp a just-out-of-reach bath towel without risking knocking her infant son into the tub; when she inexplicably breaks down in tears simply from looking at him; when her mind envisions the worst possible outcome of every basic situation; when she temporarily loses her sanity when someone interrupts the careful construction of her infant’s daily routine; when she wants the comfort of contact with other people but finds the collective voices of other parents overwhelming; when we perceive she’s much prettier than she’s allowing herself to be, as she forgoes all attention to herself and directs it toward her baby. Mi Amiga del Parque is a picture of the joy and awe that comes from the endless stress and fear and the ways in which every small moment of the day exacerbates both.
Liz finds an unlikely companion in the surly and ambiguous Rosa (director, co-writer, and co-producer Ana Katz, who won the World Cinema Screenwriting Award for the project), a woman of lower class, different lifestyle and more flexible moral persuasion than Liz. Rosa takes care of her niece and may or may not be insane -- either way, she offers Liz unique company, something Liz desperately needs at this moment in her life.
In an attempt to maintain a semblance of normal life, Liz also employs grandmotherly Yazmina (Mirella Pascual), who has a number of successful child-rearings under her belt, to watch her son. Still, Liz mandates every aspect of Yazmina’s care in contentious moments wherein the screenplay highlights how every mother has her own fierce instincts and stubborn ideas of what is best for their child. (At one point, a character tells Liz she lacks the motherly instinct, and the fearful anger swells in her face, expressing a cross between “How could she say that?” and “What if she is right?”)
Because the narrative is driven by this fundamental human element and features the small everyday trials that all can recognize, the film does not feel like an Argentinian or Uruguayan story about a particular class or individual; instead, it captures a familiar moment in life we can all share. The film offers various sub-plots of suspicion, ulterior motive and awkward friendship, but what it leaves is an image of motherhood that holds a mirror up to anyone who has raised a child, anywhere in the world.