Talented Polish writer and director Urszula Antoniak impresses again in her second full-length feature, “Code Blue”. It’s an intense examination of loneliness and intimacy in the scale of Michael Haneke’s “La Pianiste”. I’m sure Ms. Antoniak would be pleased with that comparison because she made the film with a fraction of that budget and without a certain Isabelle Huppert, not to mention the class and experience of Haneke himself. The screenplay may be simpler, and the characters and surroundings working class, but her gritty film isn’t any less accomplished.
Middle aged Marian is a dedicated nurse at a geriatric ward, offering solace and affection to elderly patients probably living out their final days. But being independent, single, and also lonely, she craves for some intimacy of her own. Her after work hours are invariably occupied with routine rituals, and in front of the TV, until she notices a neighbour living in her block of flats. She becomes vaguely infatuated, and he, an object of her fantasy. One night they’re both witness to a rape in the nearby marshes. From that moment on, Marian’s carefully-wrapped fantasy figure will develop cracks, from which will not only emerge the true nature of the mysterious neighbour, but also her own feelings of guilt, and her desperate longing to be loved…
This is a painful and relentlessly unforgiving character study that we would rather not face up to, but should. But despite the harsh scrutiny by the director, there is great sympathy (empathy even) for the protagonist, her human needs and condition. As a psychological character study it triumphs, and is aided by some minimalistic cinematography, meticulous direction, and a sincere and heartfelt performance from Belgian actress Bien de Moor who plays Marian. Painful and shocking as it may be to watch, Antoniak’s ‘adult’ endeavour is definitely Recommended Viewing..!