Woman on the Roof: Film Review | Tribeca 2022
(3.5/5) A deeply somber and intimate view of a woman in the midst of a mental health crisis.
FILMWOMAN-CENTEREDDRAMAFILM FESTIVALTRIBECAMOLLY KUSILKA
Woman on the Roof, written and directed by Anna Jadowska, stars Dorota Pomykala as Mira, a 60-year-old woman who lives with her husband and her adult son and works at a birth clinic as a midwife. Early on, it’s evident that Mira is living on autopilot, in a state of disconnectedness. We watch her sulk through her morning routine - she goes to the pet store to pick up fish food and then to the bank, where suddenly she pulls out a knife and attempts to rob the teller, in the most tragic and apologetic attempt of a bank robbery I have ever seen. The teller calls the cops, and Mira flees, continuing her life as normal. Until soon after when the cops show up at her door, and she must deal with the repercussions of her actions. Through this process, Mira must grapple with her depression and her unhappiness in her life as she reconciles what drove her to this point.
This would not have worked near as well if the lead performance was not so captivating. Pomykala commands the screen with such effortlessness and embodies this woman so fully. She carries the weight of the film on her shoulders, as much of it hangs on her every facial expression and movement to convey her emotional state. I found myself engrossed in trying to understand her, what led her to commit this crime, and never wavering in my empathy for her. Pomykala portrays Mira’s depression devastatingly well, down to the way she speaks and the way she moves her body. She talks very quietly and softly, with an unassuredness that evokes sorrow and empathy. There’s also a running theme about aging; there are several shots of Mira looking at her nude body, yearning to be an object of desire. There’s a scene where she climbs into bed nude and tries to seduce her husband, and his response is more or less “what is wrong with you.” She’s increasingly dejected and unfulfilled, in a dark depressive state that will feel recognizable to many who have lived it or witnessed it.
The somber tone is contrasted with a bright, highly exposed cinematography, so bright that it gives a sense of distorted reality. Everything is a bit too intense to the point of being almost overwhelming. It ultimately created such a visceral landscape to further heighten our experience of Mira’s mental state, a person who feels that life is unbearable. At one point towards the end, Mira tells her husband: we might only have a few years left, do you really want to spend them like this? It’s a striking moment of epiphany for the character and her husband, who up until this point has really only served to make Mira more depressed and undervalued. The film concludes on a strong yet quietly profound note, with a twinge of hope. I found this to be a quite moving character study of a woman in a later stage of life dealing with crippling depression, something that feels so rarely seen on screen, led by a commanding lead performance.