“A Celebration of Lesbian Sexuality”
Nina (Julia Kijowska) is struggling in her marriage and wants a change. She really wants to is have a child but is unable to conceive. Multiple failed attempts have caused her to be disillusioned, depressed and at a breaking point. An accidental encounter with Magda (Eliza Rycembel) gives her a sense of hope. Young and independent, Magda is young and independent and catches the eye of Nina’s husband, Wojtek (Andrzej Konopka), who sees her as a possible solution to their pregnancy problem. Magda does not react and he tries to get to be a surrogate mother. Nina also finds Magda interesting but more out of curiosity than surrogacy. Magda actually brings forward Nina’s repressed desire and as she does, Nina finds herself losing control of her life. Of course, it all comes to a head and each of the three characters must make a decision as to who they will be in the future and what they will leave behind — and at what cost?
“Nina” is the feature film debut of Polish director Olga Chajdas and it has been winning awards on the festival circuit. Nina and Wojtek’s 20+ year marriage is on the rocks, even though they both seemingly still love each other. They’re stagnating and have hit a dead end because they’ve been unable to conceive. There are also other reasons why their marriage is falling apart. One is these is probably because they come from different backgrounds. Nina’s a high-school French teacher and Wojtek is a mechanic. Nina’s mother (Katarzyna Gniewkowska) is a huge influence – not only is she the headmistress of the school where her daughter teaches, she’s also funded Nina’s IVF treatment that failed and she‘s going to stop the cash flow so now they are desperately seeking a surrogate.
Magda is an airport security worker Magda and has a female flight attendant lover. While her lover is away away, Magda can play, but when she’s back in Warsaw, Magda is grounded. After Nina and her husband’s efforts to find a suitable woman to carry their child, Nina fortuitously backs into Magda’s car. Nina and Wojtek decide that Magda is their last hope of surrogacy and concoct a plan to get her to agree. They don’t know Magda is a lesbian and the big surprise is that so is Nina and Magda has managed to bring her latent sexuality to action.
The cast is excellent throughout but there are several plot problems. Maybe Nina really doesn’t want a child, and she’s felt pressured by her husband, family and Poland’s strict Catholic society. As far as the erotic aspects of the film and some of the scenes are quite sexually charged, Nina and Magda don’t seem like a believable couple. They have nothing in common— Nina is older and a teacher and quite staid while Magda is a free spirit. I doubt they could ever manage a long-term relationship. The two women become lovers so quickly that we learn very little about them.
Writer/director Chajdas’ has said that this film isn’t meant to portray the situation of Polish lesbian life: it’s primarily about love. In Poland civil partnerships are not formally recognized and there is no same-sex marriage. “Nina” is a fine addition to the canon of LGBTQ cinema since it really is about woman facing a new reality and life and coming out.
Bonus Short Film – Social Butterfly (Directed by Lauren Wolkstein | France, USA | 14 minutes | English & French with English Subtitles) — A 30-year-old American woman (Anna Margaret Hollyman) sneaks into a teenage party in the South of France leading to a surprising encounter.