A remarkable new South African film that will break your heart
Review by Daniel Dercksen (November 15, 2015)
The deeply moving ‘n Man Soos My Pa is one of those exceptional films steeped in the tradition of classic films like East Of Eden that grabs hold of you emotionally and never lets go, and with its powerful finale, makes its mark significantly as a spiritual cinematic experience you will remember long after watching the film.
Its epic intimacy is hushed and quiet, filled with a wonderful sense of nostalgia. It’s a film that leaves you wanting more at the end of its rousing emotional journey.
Writer-director Sean Else has a unique gift as storyteller and storymaker: as a consummate storyteller he knows how to tell a story well, his vision as a filmmaker breathes life into his words, and his astute sensibility as director in making characters truthful is evident in the sincere and honest performances he draws from his talented cast.
Although it is an Afrikaans film, it is subtitled in English and accessible to anyone looking to escape into a proudly South African story.
In ‘n Man Soos My Pa we follow the lives of 3 fathers from the 70’s to the year 2015.
It tells the affecting story of fathers whose flawed humanity destroys their families, and whose love for their relations ultimately sets them on a powerful path of transformation and redemption.
It’s about guiltless children and compassionate women who are subjected to their atrocious and immoral behaviour and have to build their own lives on broken dreams, and through their sacrifices shine a bright light on the importance of family.
Else’s sincere introspective journey into these shattered lives is heart-breaking and soulful, taking us from the tragedy of a father who is poisoned by alcoholism, to the torment of an abusive father, and balances the two extremes with that of a father who struggles to find reason and is drowning in a sea of mindlessness.
If there’s one reason to see this film, it’s for its powerful ensemble cast, showcasing the best talent South Africa has to offer.
Neels van Jaarsveld delivers an emotionally gripping performance as Attie, a man whose dreams are bigger than his impoverished lifestyle, and who tries to escape from reality, losing himself in a world of fantasy and booze to the detriment of his wife Nakkie (Antoinette Louw) and son, Juan (Vaughn Else)
Else is great as the young Juan, with Vilje Maritz shining as the spirited teenage Juan who desperately tries to find his way in the world and create a meaningful bond with his father.
Greg Kriek is mesmerising with his moody performance as the adult Juan, a husband and father who badly wants to overcome his hatred for a man who has ruined his life.
As the older Attie, Albert Maritz delivers a moving performance, capturing the essence of a father and husband who embraces his weakness to combat his battle with alcoholism.
Deon Lotz is equally brilliant as the atrocious Colonel Nieuwoudt, a single father and soldier whose violent and tyrannical behaviour sparks heated conflict that leads to a shocking conclusion.
As the women in the lives of these men, Zonika De Vries is radiant as the young Ellie, with Lara De Bruijn brittle and fragile as the teenage Ellie, and Elma Postma delivering a strong performance as the adult Ellie who cradles the guilt and hostility that threatens her happiness.
Antoinette Louw is sensational as Attie’s young wife Nakkie, who has to cope with her husband’s fragile disposition, and Sandra Prinsloo is magnificent as the older Nakkie whose unfortunate illness brings a sad but poignant resolution.
‘n Man Soos My Pa is a layered story that spans four generations and could easily have spun out of control and become complicated, but with Else’s meticulous script and sensible direction, the plot seamlessly takes us through the lives of these colourful characters with ease and comfort.
To underscore the rich emotional journey of the characters, Else’s choice of music is excellent. The evocative score by Benjamin Willem and songs like Koos Du Plessis’ Kinders Van Die Wind result in a nostalgic journey that allows us to bond with the characters and share their lives.
In an age where families are striving to heal festered wounds and unite peacefully, ‘n Man Soos My Pa succeeds admirably, reminding us of how important it is to honour a past that informs our future and seals our respective destinies.
Yes, it is a tearful (but not depressing) experience that will leave you with a lump in your throat and showering your loved ones with gifts of gratitude, but it is ultimately a fulfilling and uplifting film that will make you feel good about having the power to love wholeheartedly, and to right the wrongs that challenge your humanness.
If ever there was a film to bring families together, it’s ‘n Man Soos My Pa, and even if you do not have a family, it’s time to reflect without any regrets.
‘n Man Soos My Pa releases nationwide on November 20.