Home > Arts/Culture/Entertainment > Review: R.M.N.

Cristian Mungiu’s R.M.N. is really two films in one. The first and stronger movie is about a Transylvanian bakery that hires several Sri Lankan workers. The townspeople react with an almost uniform orgy of racist animus. The one exception is Csilla (Judith State), the bakery’s manager, who becomes friends with the immigrants and tries to protect their persons and their jobs from her irate countrymen.

Ideally, the film, then, would be about Csilla. Even better, it should be about the immigrants: Mahinda (Amitha Jayasinghe), Alick (Gihan Edirisinghe), and Rauff (Nuwan Karunarathna). Instead, though, the protagonist is Matthias (Marin Grigore), a stoic, angry, intermittently violent man who returns to Transylvania after an altercation on the job in Germany. He’s estranged from his wife and critical of the way she raises their son. He doesn’t want the boy to be a sissy. 

Matthias’s insecurities about work and gender implicitly connect to the townspeople’s racist panic about foreign workers. The film doesn’t really do much with those links, though. Instead, Mungiu mostly relies on visuals to bring the movie together. These are, to be fair, lovely and powerful—the camera lingers on the forest and the town in bleak images which evoke both the beauty and the ugliness in small, tight-knit communities. 

Mungiu’s repudiation of racism is heartfelt. The bakery pays exploitive wages and treats the townspeople poorly, but the film makes clear that’s no excuse for the unabashed and poisonous racism of the townspeople. 

And yet, the film’s rejection of bigotry is undermined by its own uncomfortable assumptions about whose story is worth telling and who gets to represent the community. R.M.N.’s conclusion attempts to finesse the problem by abandoning realism in a confused and somewhat desperate effort to affix a meaning to Matthias’s story. That effort can’t be successful, though, because R.M.N. shouldn’t be Matthias’s story. 125 min.

Gene Siskel Film Center

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