Stars: Mimi Branescu, Maria Popistasu, Mirela Oprisor
Director: Radu Mundean
Genre: Romanian/Art House/Drama
It won't be apparent to you at the beginning of Tuesday, After Christmas--which opens straightaway with a nude couple lounging in bed, exchanging playful banter--that the theme of the film is really about whether or not you believe in Santa Claus. But more on that later...
Our full frontal couple consists of Paul (Mimi Branescu) and Raluca (Maria Popistasu). Paul is married, but not to Raluca. Further complicating matters is that Raluca is acquainted with Paul's wife, Adriana, (Mirela Oprisor). She's their nine year-old daughter's dentist.
In any tale about a man and his mistress, the fundamental question that hangs in the air like a cloud of laughing gas has to do with if and when he's found out, and what consequences will ensue. Don't get too anxious about that, because first you're going to learn about these people in painstakingly mundane real time. That's because mundane is what REAL is, 99% of the time. It's the other one percent that most of us live for--whichever way it goes--because it's then that we feel alive. Maybe that's why happily married men cheat--as much for the risky prospect of getting caught as anything else. (There's a little glimmer of James Bond in every guy.)
Director Radu Mundean shows us the everyday-ness of Paul's home life--where indeed he seems to be content. Nice wife. Adorable daughter. That's a lot to lay on the line, Mr. Bond.
So as the holidays approach, we're off to the department store to discuss--in a lengthy scene--the pros and cons of the snowboard Paul and Adriana are considering as a present for daughter Mara (Sasa Paul-Szel) from Santa. Yes, at age nine, Mara still believes in Santa Claus. A bit old for that by American standards--but her parents seem to think it's fine. Perhaps they enjoy the hide-and-seek game of it themselves. Maybe they would like to believe in Santa, or what he represents, too.
Tension builds slowly in Tuesday, After Christmas--but it does build. And there are two superb scenes in this film that make it well worth the wait. The first is when Paul takes his daughter to her dental appointment, not anticipating that Adriana has decided to show up there too. The two lovers are understandably nervous, as Raluca explains the procedures she wants to perform to the unsuspecting wife. We know what the subtle, walking-on-eggshells emotions displayed on each of their faces mean.
The other is when push comes to shove and Paul decides to confront Adriana with the truth. These are two amazing actors--a real-life couple, by the way--in a scene that is nothing short of a tour-de-force...as emotionally draining and REAL as anything you're ever likely to see on film. It can make you feel you're eavesdropping somewhere you shouldn't be. (Which causes me to wonder if they faced that situation for real, would their attitude be, like... WHATEVER...having been there, done that with the other thing?)
Maybe what Tuesday, After Christmas is trying to say is if you believe in Santa, you're just as likely to believe in happily ever after...and that can be a real letdown when the illusion is dispelled.