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You Have No Idea How Much I Love You review – secrets and lies

‘Eva’ in You Have No Idea How Much I Love You.
The pain and grief on their faces is plain enough … ‘Eva’ in You Have No Idea How Much I Love You. Photograph: ICA

Here is an initially intriguing but ultimately exasperating film from the Polish documentary-maker Pawel Lozinski. It has what amounts to a twist ending, unveiled in a bland and supercilious announcement in the closing credits. This disclosure is perhaps supposed to get us to reflect on the nature of documentary film-making, but I felt it was just a rather irritating and pointless way of upending our good faith. Those squeamish about spoilers – even now, I can’t be quite sure as to whether this precisely applies – had better look away now …

The renowned real-life Polish psychotherapist Bogdan de Barbaro appears as himself, speaking to a mother and daughter, Eva and Hanna, who are in emotional distress. Both have issues of abandonment and betrayal. There are calm, unbroken closeups on each of them, and the pain and grief on their faces are plain enough. It is compellingly real. And then, over the closing credits, we are coolly told that, of course, privacy issues mean a real therapy session could never be filmed and shown in this way, and the two women are actors, improvising and drawing upon their own emotional memories.

Why couldn’t we have been told that honestly from the beginning? Why the coy concealment or deferment? There is no good reason for the quasi-fictional imposture. And did the two women discuss a shared fictional history with the director before filming, developing a complex backstory, in the manner of Mike Leigh? Or was each thinking of something different when they were crying? We aren’t told. The film doesn’t quite shoulder the creative burden of fiction or the factual burden of documentary. The quality of performance is high, but there is something frustrating about the whole project.

This article titled "You Have No Idea How Much I Love You review – secrets and lies" was written by Peter Bradshaw, for The Guardian on Wednesday 14 February 2018 03.00pm

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