Antonia's Line (Marleen Gorris)

Rating: ** (out of ****)

Every critic has biases, and I, an amateur critic and avid filmgoer, am no exception. Two of my biases: I don't think film is a terribly good medium for telling stories that span decades in people's lives (though there are certainly exceptions, notably Citizen Kane), and I don't like ensemble films about wacky characters who are defined solely by their eccentricities. I wanted very much to like Antonia's Line, a film about several generations of women which was written and directed by a woman, but within ten minutes I could tell that this was Not My Kind of Movie. We're introduced in short order to the nutty woman who bays at the full moon; the nutty recluse who lives in a world of books; the nutty old lady shouting obscenities at a long-dead husband from her deathbed. These are supporting characters, true, but the leads are never really fleshed out as people, either; they're simply types, each with one defining trait ("earth-mother", "prodigy", "lesbian", etc.). Acceptable, perhaps, if broad comedy is what's intended, but Antonia's Line wants to say serious things about the miracle of life and the miracle of death, and its ideas are as banal as its characters are lifeless. The actors do a creditable job, given what they have to work with, but I was never engaged.