DIRECTOR: Brett Michael Innes
CAST: Anel Alexander, Shoki Mokgapa and Jacques Bessenger
RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes
RATING: 4 stars (out of 5)
SINK is a gut-wrenching portrait of loss, guilt and reconciliation. That’s not reconciliation in the sense of forgiveness, but more along the lines of, how do I reconcile the broken pieces of my life to move forward?
It is also an uncomfortably close look at the smothering maid/madam relationship as it plays out in so many South African homes. It tracks the relationship between these two women who live in each others’ space, know each others’ intimate details, but have a very uneven power dynamic. It makes you question your own relationships long after the flickering images are gone from your retina.
The film starts as Michelle (Alexander) and Chris (Bessenger) tell Rachel (Mokgapa) that they would understand if she didn’t want to return to work and they would compensate her well. But, Rachel indicates she will come back and the three uncomfortably part ways. You soon work out that Rachel’s daughter has died and they all feel it keenly.
The film then moves along two parallel tracks, showing the three in the now and flickering back to when the little girl was alive, carefully pitting the two times against each other.
Here, meticulous colour grading is a subtle hint as to which time track you are watching and indeed the muted colours of the film play a huge role in informing the emotional tone.
Michelle and Chris’s home is very neutral, leeched of intense colours, and Rachel spends her days following the same cleaning routine. The only colour in Rachel’s life seems to be in the way back when, when her little one was around, but this is her life now.
Just to complicate matters, Michelle’s difficult pregnancy is keeping her at home and Chris struggles to draw her out of her growing depression.
While the three live in the same space, they live their own lives, and despite having shared the tragedy of the child’s death, there is no communication around how they feel and each is their own little miserable island.
Alexander is restrained, while Bessenger is a mix of bewildered support and unvoiced hope that things can be made right.
Mokgapa is an intense study of grief and torn loyalty –she has a stillness about her that simply screams pain and the inability to do something, anything about it. Rachel’s entire existence was wrapped up in her job that supports her family back home in Mozambique and her little daughter, but now it is hard to focus.
The film takes a long time to set up the trio’s interdependency so about halfway it drags, but the pace does pick up, so stick with it, it is worth it.
Chris Letcher’s beautifully spare score elegantly supports the emotional tone rather than telling you what you are supposed to feel, just as the film gives you a scenario and makes you question how you would deal with it.
If you liked A Map of the World or Dis ek, Anna, you will enjoy this.