Opening 2 Sep 2021
Siblings Oskar (Leopold Pallua) and Lilli (Rosa Zant) have been living with their mother Betty (Anna Fenderl) in Austria for six years without a legal residency permit. They are originally from Chechenia. In desperation Betty cuts her veins in a suicide attempt, is sent to the hospital and then to a home where she sits in a wheelchair. Special services collect the children (who try to run away and hide) and deliver each to a different foster family. Lilly now lives with a single woman, Rut (Simone Furth), who has a boyfriend Georg (Rainer Vöss). Oskar lives with a young couple and their baby, as well as the family grandmother Erika (Christine Ostermayer). Oskar and Lilli try to adjust to the new conditions: strangers, vegetarians, no car, grandma suffering from Parkinson's, etc. Lilli has an unfortunate experience with another girl at school, who is not a real friend. Although separated, the children manage to communicate on their mobile phone and meet up often, once at their former apartment, now occupied by a new family; they visit their mother in her home. Oskar seems mature beyond his years, establishing a loyal friendship with Grandma Erika, even babysitting her and the family baby. He suggests to Lilli that they act like bad kids in order to be reunited. He writes letters to his mother, and even finds a source of money. They dream of running away to Argentina.
The film is based on the book Oskar und Lilli by Austrian author Monika Helfer, which originally came out in 1994. Here Oskar is 7 and Lilli is 9. In the film the children seem to have lots of independent time to meet. In real life I doubt that foster families would allow this much freedom. Most impressive are Leopold Pallua and Rosa Zant as Oskar and Lilli, as well as Christine Ostermayer as grandma. It would be interesting to learn how much of the film is based on director Arash T. Riahi’s own immigration experiences, having left Iran at age 12 and moving with his family to Austria in 1984. (Becky Tan)