Director Ioana Uricaru brings a story to the world with her film Lemonade (2018) that deals with numerous topics currently at the forefront of many discussions. The film primarily tackles immigration – and in order to avoid any spoilers, the other topics will be omitted from this review. However, they are all tackled from the point-of-view of Mara (Mãlina Manovici), who is simply trying to get her part of the American dream to give her son Dragos a better life than she could give him in Romania.
Lemonade is one of the early highlights of Tribeca Film Festival
Mara is getting changed into a hospital gown when the film begins, in order to receive vaccinations she needs to get her green card. Right away things start going not-as-planned when the nurse also gives her an unwanted flu shot – without her consent – and her husband Daniel (Dylan Smith), who she has only known for a few months, is impatiently waiting for her outside the office to go to their appointment. She is asked many questions by U.S. immigration official, Moji (Steve Bacic), who will ultimately decide to approve her application for her green card if he believes her marriage to Daniel is legitimate.
Manovici gives such a strong performance in this film that when she came out for the Q&A following the film, it was hard not to attempt to console her by telling her “everything will be okay.” The film is tough at times, and several of the men around her are ultimately toxic. Mara isn’t trying to do anything other than be a good mother to her son and give him the best opportunities that she can. Yet, she is frequently treated as a villain by those she encounters. A nurse in Romania, she came to the states on a work visa that expired right about the time she married Daniel. However, their marriage isn’t a total sham – but the circumstances don’t look good.
Uricaru navigates the world through Mara with several tracking shots as she moves through it. There is an immersive quality to the movie that often makes you feel you’re sitting or standing next to Mara, yet unable to help her through the trials her journey has put before her. The narrative does put one obstacle after another in her way, but Mara is strong and determined as she pushes through even the most challenging situations. While there are many hard-to-watch situations that play out, Mara carries the weight, and it’s clear she won’t go down without a fight.
Lemonade is a film that definitely needs to be seen, and the names of the director and lead actor remembered. The potential seen in this film is strong, and their names on a project will definitely prompt my commitment to seeing it. The film earns the Must See rating, so keep your eyes out to when and where you’ll be able to see it.