Rena is recovering from a serious auto accident in a hospital. She has serious injuries, but she is also deeply depressed, grappling as she is with cataclysmic loss.
Across the hallway, a little boy named Manolis is lonely and bereft as his mother succumbs to a grave illness. He is left confused and lonely as his father confronts his grief. As Rena comes to terms with the aftermath of her tragedy, she finds a sense of kinship with Manolis, which helps them both process their enormous losses.
Written and directed by Laura Neri, this meditative, beautifully observed short drama is a study of both wrenching grief and beautiful connection, one that spans generations and situations but finds common ground in raw, almost unbearable emotion.
The emotional terrain of the film is anguished, but the creative approach is restrained and profoundly quiet, carving out a sense of time and place that feels both luminous and vast, almost as if the hospital setting is an in-between space between life and death.
The camera favors longer shots and is attentive to small details and moments that absorb Rena, as the editing delicately branches from the present moment to shards of memories of the accident. The filmmaking overall possesses grace and poeticism, but it also mirrors the stasis that Rena finds herself in.
The storytelling slowly parses out what happened to Rena in the accident and just why she seems immobilized, with little will to go on. Details accumulate slowly for both viewers and for Rena, who fits together these memories like a puzzle until she can fully look at what’s happened and what she has lost.
Actor Maria Kallimani embodies both the way depression and grief immobilizes and draw people into themselves. But as she observes Manolis, played by young actor Aggelos Karaminas in a natural, sensitive performance, she starts to come back to the world — and can reach out to Manolis just when he needs it the most.
“Fugue” is based on the director’s personal experience of a near-fatal accident with her mother. That inspiration has been parlayed into a moving narrative that culminates in a cathartic and moving climax that is all the more powerful for its quiet, restrained build-up. Loss and suffering eventually affect all humans sooner or later, but we experience it differently. “Fugue” asks us to look underneath these differences and empathize with the pain. Compassion won’t take away the grief, but it offers comfort in knowing we aren’t alone in our suffering.