My Year 12 English teacher thought long and hard about the one word that in any culture, at any time, would provoke a reaction. That word he came up with was ‘mother.’ And it is this sensibility that Ana Kokkinos (Book of Revelation) uses to underpin her new film, Blessed.
Both the affirming “she’s your mother, of course she loves you,” and the reproving “you’re her mother, you take care of her” are the strands that Kokkinos uses to follow children of different families throughout one day and then start that day again from the perspective of their mothers.
The children are all aged around 15, a testing age for the most functional of families, and we follow them run away from home, skip school, drink and steal. Some feel misunderstood while others have been the victims of neglect and abuse. The mothers, by and large, are single and working hard to provide for their kids and make ends meet. All I think, had they been asked, would have agreed that motherhood came with no instruction manual.
The mothers are played by some of this country’s great actresses : Deborah Lee Furness, Frances O’Connor, Miranda Otto (whom you have heard of) and Victoria Haralabidou (whom you probably haven’t) who all portray their characters so faithfully that you will either respect or despise or pity them from the strength of their performance. The cinematic highlight (simultaneously the tragedy of the story) is the overwhelming scream of one mother– a scream to wake the dead but of course in real life that cannot happen.
The kids likewise display a bravado that is really only skin deep. We do not have to spend very long in their company to recognise their vulnerability and deep desire to be heard, understood and respected.
The film stirred in me a series of questions which every generation wrestles with. How does a parent maintain standards of behaviour when their children start to push past those boundaries? How can parents affirm their children so that they grow up safe, secure in themselves and confident? Certainly the parent must take the responsibility for creating an environment at home safe from harm and they must model the behaviour they want their children to live. The film displays how harshly parents can be judged by their children, even into adulthood and a large dose of grace and forgiveness on all sides will aid in building long term, loving relationships.
The opening of the film is of all the children sleeping contently and safely in their beds. “My kids are a blessing, everyone of them.” This is the hope of the film that each day will see the kids sleeping safely in their beds at nightfall.