Mina Tannenbaum

An initially whimsical look into the lives of two Parisian Jewish girls born on the same day, from the awkwardness of childhood to the dullness and desperation of adolescence, Mina Tannenbaum has some serious points to make about women’s lives and the rifts that open up as we enter adulthood.

Mina and Ethel are two girls with strong imaginations and rich, often fabulous inner lives, whose family backgrounds and outlooks are very different; as teens, they struggle doggedly to see each other’s points of view, largely because their various emotional and physical imperfections mean they rely on each other, but as grown women, the time and inclination to understand each other falls away.

While the film’s elements of Amelie-like lightness and tragic melodrama don’t always sit well together (the same tension that makes a lot of 90s French films slightly indigestible) the film is at its best when laying bare the two young women’s insecurities about themselves. The film doesn’t need any extra tragedy laid on- its sadness is partly drawn from the flighty and determined Ethel’s triumph over Mina, who overthinks everything and, despite her artistic talent, is racked by insecurities. It’s a reminder not to overlook or underestimate the Minas of this world, even when others are easier to love and shout a little louder. Its final frames are an eloquent plea for time, attention and understanding, particularly in a fast-moving world shaped by the ambitions and desires of others.


The father


I agree, and this is a sensitive review of an interesting film, but I have to say, for me the family back story was important. Essential rather than tacked on. I'm thinking especially of the main relationship between father and daughter. A holocaust survivor, he never speaks except to repeat the same phrase to her (I won't spoil it by saying what that is) but he is a deeply comforting presence for his child. Later he has some kind of absolute-seeming mental breakdown and screams the same phrase to her, repeatedly, as she walks down a long hospital corridor away from him. It's a disturbing scene, his words now seem to her to be humiliating, taunting the comfort she had once found in him, giving the lie to her first and most essential human connection. I think that relationship is quite important to understanding her final decision about life. We can also see, heartbreakingly, how Mina might have come to a different understanding, in those moments.  When I first watched the film, I was young and related above all to the daughter walking away, naturally enough. Now I relate more to the father's madness, his profound loss as the child leaves. I find his voice despairing not taunting in these final moments and I don't find the scene melodramatic, I find it quietly tragic. I think the loss of the father is essential to Mina, underpinning how she understood her future losses and her obsession with betrayal, her mistrust: people close to her, to her mind, are always stealing from her (ideas, men). Without understanding her back story, I think I would have found all this hard to relate to. We also know much more now, I think, about how historic trauma can reappear generations later, small signs being passed quietly from parent to child and going on, like that, like a small haunting. Many children of survivors struggle intensely, I believe. Even when their parents have done everything in their power to shield them from their own pain. Mina seems to me to be carrying her parents pain to its ultimate conclusion, when the love that was available to her was always just around the corner in the form of her friend, and it might have been so different.  

An over-looked film about friendship

An interesting film about friendship and about the ways in which family history can affect the capacity for trust and connection. It has some interesting things to say about holocaust survivors and their parenting, showing what off-the-scale courage it must take to raise your children to love, trust and connect when you have yourself been so thoroughly and catastrophically betrayed. Mina's father's struggle to teach Mina about love quietly haunts the movie. As usual, Sophia Blackwell's wonderful reviews can get you thinking anew.

Average: 5 (1 vote)
Martine Dugowson