Mirza is a young orphan in Sarajevo, often left to his own devices under his elderly grandmother's care. Often on his own, he earns easy money assisting a local drug dealer in town.
Dispatched on a job one day, he experiences a chance encounter, one that uses the guise of maternal affection to mask a shadier exchange. Faced with the unexpected reminder of his missing mother, he must face where his path is headed.
Written and directed with great thoughtfulness by Igor Drljaca, this dramatic short is essentially a coming-of-age story. Most coming-of-age stories arc from innocence to experience, piercing the veil of youthful illusion into the realities of life. This one reverses that progression, charting the journey of a young boy who perhaps had had to grow up too fast.
The story is told with pared-down but perceptive writing and an observational sense of pacing, brought to life by naturalistic cinematography full of coolly muted tones and handheld camera. Some of the shots have a sculpted, almost abstract quality that communicates Mirza's place in the world, often emphasizing the looming presence of Sarajevo itself or the cloistered darkness of his interactions with adults. Mirza's milieu is an often lonely one, capturing a boy navigating the world without guidance or love.
Mirza himself has little dialogue, instead often watching and responding to the world around him as he goes about his job. He watches mothers with their children; he deals with grubbing customers and sees them at their most cynical and petty. Played with understated ease by actor Haris Begic, he evokes a hardening, stoic exterior, weathered by loss and the self-involvement of the adults around him. But in poignant key moments, Begic also hints at the young boy still longing for familial love and affection. That buried longing comes to the surface, perhaps changing Mirza's path at a crucial point in life.
"Woman In Purple" is a subtle, even minimalistic film, one that is both distant in its observational style and intimate in its keen attention to its main character's internal experience. There isn't a lot of background on how Mirza came to be without parents, though one gets the sense there are many other orphans in Sarajevo. The film exists firmly in Mirza's present tense. Mirza has been forced to grow up fast, and with a child's adaptability, he has gone along with the fast-moving currents of the world around him.
But in dealing with the ghost of his grief, however briefly, he must remember the young child within him, and he must learn to guide that young child himself. We don't quite know what path he will take at the story's conclusion, but he's left on a basketball court playing on his own with a sense of abandon -- like the child he should be.