David: Today’s film is The Road to Mother, and stars Adil Akhmetov and Altynay Nogerbek. It’s from the country of Kazakhstan and is directed by Akan Satayev. It will be here for worldwide release later this year, and screened at the Golden Globes. The movie is subtitled for our English speakers. Here’s the IMDB page.
I thought that this film was beautiful, if a tad overlong. The story essentially boils down to a young boy that is taken away from home, and his journey to get back. Shannon, what were your initial impressions for Road to Mother?
Shannon: Initially I thought the film was great. The story was good (reminded me a little of The Way Back and Lion), but at first I was really confused and it took me awhile to grasp what was happening in the beginning. This is normal for me though, so I wouldn’t say it was because of the subtitles or anything. For some reason I just was confused as to why they took the boy in the first place and whether they were good people or bad people. Once I realized that they took the boy to Istanbul and the mother was not with him I slowly was able to comprehend where he was and who he was with - still not sure on the why though.
The film was a bit slow at times, and yes I agree that it was a tad overlong, but other than that it was wonderful. The acting was good from what I could tell and the story was impactful the entire time. A young boy thrown into a new country that speaks a different language and having to adapt and grow up without his mother and father, all while his mother is trying to live without her only son. All these emotions were evident to me on screen through the actors and actresses of this film.
What did you think of the acting David?
David: I thought that the acting was tremendous. Despite the fact that I obviously don’t speak the language, I had no trouble following the story or the emotions of the characters. Everyone’s motivations, even when they were flawed, were clear and succinct across their faces. It was a joy, because rarely do child actors have the capabilities that the different kids were given in this film.
That may have actually been my favorite part of the film, was life on the collective farm before the boy’s father was killed. It was cool to see the different relationships that had formed, and the boy staying awake to hear his mother and father talking. It’s things like this that often get missed in movies with a scope this large (we are talking about the history of a country!), so it was nice to see a tribute to the small moments.
The most devastating scene for me was seeing the boy taken from his mother. Watching her chase after him… wow. It was a scene that made me physically uncomfortable as I considered all the implications of life after. It was another thing that made me think of a film that you mentioned in Lion. There are a lot of similar themes - separation from family, strength of character, and education about a country that many people don’t know enough about.
The scenes featuring WWII were especially powerful. For being considered an “independent film”, I was really impressed with the effects - in particular the explosives and the guns. Never once did I question the reality of what I was watching, and the camerawork accented that. It almost gives the film a documentary type feel.
Did you have a favorite moment Shannon? Or was there anything that particularly impressed you?
Shannon: I think my favorite moment was when he was on the train heading to the military academy and he sees Outmit. It was such a happy, yet still sad in some ways, moment that I guess it was somewhat of turning point in the movie. Still having hope that they would find each other soon and knowing that both were still alive and waiting for the other one. It was really sad when he was thrown into the labor camp prisons immediately after gaining a vacation from the war. I think that was my least favorite part, I mean he was fighting for Russia how could he be a war criminal? And having to be there for 15 years, I can’t imagine what the mother and Outmit were going through as they had to wait patiently for him to come home, if he came home at all.
I know you asked about my favorite moment, but here is my least favorite moment - the scene with Outmit and Joldas where he is trying to get with her and all she wants is his help for her mother. I’m glad that she was able to stop it, but still what a pig. Should have seen that coming the way he acted as a child and all. The scene reminded me of The Zookeeper’s Wife - gah, all these war movies and sick men make me sick.
Honestly, the things that really impressed me the most about this film was the acting. As we both already mentioned, it was tremendous and all the emotions were left on the screen for the viewer to both see and feel. Even up to the end while she waiting on the side of the road for her son. “He was taken by this road, and he shall return by the same road.”
I definitely agree with you about all the war scenes, though it wasn’t really that much of the movie. The effects were great in those scenes and the main character’s personality really came out, the person he grew up to be despite everything he had to go through as a child. Is there another aspect of the film you’d like to touch on David?
David: Nothing huge, but simply the camerawork. I was really impressed with the camera throughout. As I stated previously, it gave it a bit of a documentary feel, which in turn really impressed upon the situation’s enormousness. Atrocities take place all over the earth each and every day, but it’s another thing to see them with such clarity here. The way we are given the tracked shots, combined with the dialogue shots continually gives us the impression that the movie is about more than just Outmit and Joldas and Illyas. It’s about the story of a country as it goes through communism, turmoil, starvation, war, and all the other things that humanity has come up with. And in the end, the country stands.
I’m going to give The Road to Mother a “B+”. What would you like to give the film Shannon?
Shannon: I’m going to give The Road to Mother a “Liked It” for my rating. It was well shot, well acted, and the story itself was great to watch, even though it wasn’t always a happy one. I’d be eager to see how this film does when it comes to the United States and the rest of the world.
David and Shannon write about movies.