Mom and Other Loonies in the Family is a multigenerational story featuring 94-year-old Berta, spanning four generations of family tales. Part wiry drama, part Hungarian history lesson, we experience the trials and tribulations of evolving values, religious persecution, and national identity through their experiences.
Ibolya Fekete’s film tells not only of a single woman’s life but the history of the nation covering 100 years that include two world wars, a revolution, and other political and religious strife. She paints a picture of familiarity to many Hungarian and Central and Eastern European families, but one that is less familiar to many in North America.
The film strikes a balanced tone, utilizing a mix of historical and newly created footage. It’s interesting to see the bustle of a city that is also in ruins at the same time, as well as dated propaganda in a country caught between communism and fascism. All these elements combine nicely to enhance the “storytelling” angle of the narrative. Fekete also encapsulates well in a few short conversations, the heartbreak of suddenly becoming a ‘foreigner’ without stepping outside your front door in a reality of war, border disputes, and political instability.
Initially it takes some effort to digest the events in the lives of Bertha, her family, and friends, not because they’re not believable but because theirs is a world so far removed from our own. As well, the constant barrage of new characters being introduced in the first half of the film, some mentioned and some shown, combined with the fast-paced narration, can make it impossible to keep up at times. Once we settle on Berta and a small circle of loved ones, it’s much more easy to focus on the story.