Persona Non Grata – You Can't Escape Your Past

REVIEW/NATION
Persona Non Grata (2021) is the first feature of Danish director Lisa Jespersen, which premiered at the Göteborg Film Festival. It is a story about uncomfortable family relations, told through the perspective of the main character, Irina, who arrives back to her family.
by Diana Ushkar


1/10/2021
Irina, a successful author who now leads a bohemian lifestyle in Copenhagen, was raised
in a rough countryside and even used to have a different name — Laura until one day she decided to flee her homeland and distance herself from everything that had been tearing her apart there. But life is hard enough to go with feet of lead, so now Irina is coming back to
the country and her family for the wedding of her brother Jannik.

From the very moment her mother picks her up from the train station, we witness
the tension between Irina and her homeland. We also realise the fact that Irina has returned a completely different person from the one her relatives remember. It's not only seen in their sharp comments on her super short hair, but also in the discussions on social issues.
For example, when Irina's mum complains that someone broke into her flower shop and stole money, Irina opposes her desire to put the thief behind bars by explaining how jailing young people would negatively affect society.
Irina is also upset that no one in her family has read her recently released debut book.
The book depicts the difficulties of her growing up in rural Denmark. Half of the book is about Catrine — a girl who bullied Irina throughout school. And ironically, once she arrives, she finds out that her brother's maid is none other than Catrine.

Things go from bad to worse as Irina is systematically ostracised in favour of Catrine.
Her former friends have convenient memory lapses, Irina's mother has taken a shine to her future daughter-in-law and even promised to hand the flower shop over to her. Which is more overwhelming, she gave Catrine her grandma's wedding ring, Irina was supposed to get. Apart from everything, Catrine is a dominant type who wants everything under her control. She keeps her nasty side hidden from all but Laura, and thanks to her the family comes across the interview Irina has done for a TV program, in which she is explicit about who was responsible for her unhappy youth. As if this isn't enough, Irina also has to tolerate her
self-centred boyfriend, Benjamin, who arrives for the wedding in time to find fault with everyone, including her.

Persona Non Grata raises a number of questions. First of all it is about the bullying and ignoring the past. Irina indeed had a trauma because of being bullied throughout her childhood, but her family pretends not to remember this. Every time Irina raises the matter, everyone blows up at her, wanting her to keep quiet. The movie hints this is not the right way to behave, as because of the ignorance, things get even worse and lead to a big scandal and even a fight. It wouldn't happen if Irina's family just had a conversation with the girl, listened to her and apologized for the past, as it would give Irina an opportunity to finally let go of
the pain she held inside. Besides, the movie also reveals Catrine's tough story, showing us that childhood bullying doesn't come from nowhere.
In the background of the movie there's also a satire on modern bohemian society. Desiring to be the most educated, extraordinary and caring, they are sometimes absurd. Take for example
a ridiculous scene on the art evening. Irina and her friend stopped and stared at the ladder, supposing it was an art object, until
the staff carried it away. The scene might be considered as a cliche, but it still brilliantly shows that people don't realise what they believe in and what they talk about.

As for the technical part of the movie, it is shot beautifully. Visually, it's a rich picture with vivid colours by DoP Manuel Alberto Claro, who throws in just a bit of that Dogma-style handheld camera to intensify key relationship moments and revelations. The movie also may be praised for its actors — everyone did a great job, managing to create a convincing balance between nervousness and humour.

In conclusion, I may say that with its kind-hearted message of tolerance, Persona Non Grata is definitely worth watching.
 
Persona Non Grata – You Can't Escape Your Past
REVIEW/NATION
Persona Non Grata (2021) is the first feature of Danish director Lisa Jespersen, which premiered at the Göteborg Film Festival. It is a story about uncomfortable family relations, told through the perspective of the main character, Irina, who arrives back to her family.
by Diana Ushkar


1/10/2021
Irina, a successful author who now leads a bohemian lifestyle in Copenhagen, was raised in a rough countryside and even used to have a different name — Laura until one day she decided to flee her homeland and distance herself from everything that had been tearing her apart there. But life is hard enough to go with feet of lead, so now Irina is coming back to the country and her family for the wedding of her brother Jannik.

From the very moment her mother picks her up from the train station, we witness the tension between Irina and her homeland. We also realise the fact that Irina has returned a completely different person from the one her relatives remember. It's not only seen in their sharp comments on her super short hair, but also in the discussions on social issues. For example, when Irina's mum complains that someone broke into her flower shop and stole money, Irina opposes her desire to put the thief behind bars by explaining how jailing young people would negatively affect society.
Irina is also upset that no one in her family has read her recently released debut book. The book depicts the difficulties of her growing up in rural Denmark. Half of the book is about Catrine — a girl who bullied Irina throughout school. And ironically, once she arrives, she finds out that her brother's maid is none other than Catrine.

Things go from bad to worse as Irina is systematically ostracised in favour of Catrine. Her former friends have convenient memory lapses, Irina's mother has taken a shine to her future daughter-in-law and even promised to hand the flower shop over to her. Which is more overwhelming, she gave Catrine her grandma's wedding ring, Irina was supposed to get. Apart from everything, Catrine is a dominant type who wants everything under her control. She keeps her nasty side hidden from all but Laura, and thanks to her the family comes across the interview Irina has done for a TV program, in which she is explicit about who was responsible for her unhappy youth. As if this isn't enough, Irina also has to tolerate her self-centred boyfriend, Benjamin, who arrives for the wedding in time to find fault with everyone, including her.

Persona Non Grata raises a number of questions. First of all it is about the bullying and ignoring the past. Irina indeed had a trauma because of being bullied throughout her childhood, but her family pretends not to remember this. Every time Irina raises the matter, everyone blows up at her, wanting her to keep quiet. The movie hints this is not the right way to behave, as because of the ignorance, things get even worse and lead to a big scandal and even a fight. It wouldn't happen if Irina's family just had a conversation with the girl, listened to her and apologized for the past, as it would give Irina an opportunity to finally let go of the pain she held inside. Besides, the movie also reveals Catrine's tough story, showing us that childhood bullying doesn't come from nowhere.


In the background of the movie there's also a satire on modern bohemian society. Desiring to be the most educated, extraordinary and caring, they are sometimes absurd. Take for example a ridiculous scene on the art evening. Irina and her friend stopped and stared at the ladder, supposing it was an art object, until the staff carried it away. The scene might be considered as a cliche, but it still brilliantly shows that people don't realise what they believe in and what they talk about.

As for the technical part of the movie, it is shot beautifully. Visually, it's a rich picture with vivid colours by DoP Manuel Alberto Claro, who throws in just a bit of that Dogma-style handheld camera to intensify key relationship moments and revelations. The movie also may be praised for its actors — everyone did a great job, managing to create a convincing balance between nervousness and humour.
In conclusion, I may say that with its kind-hearted message of tolerance, Persona Non Grata is definitely worth watching.
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