Review: Free (2014)

Director: Martijn de Jong | 50 minutes | drama | Actors: Mads Wittermans, Ysa Dekker, Laurien Riha, Astrid van Eck, Ian Blok

Ten-year-old Mariska (Ysa Dekker) chose a special subject for her speech. Not the usual pet or environmental issues are discussed, although she actually wanted to bring her beloved rat to class, but she gives her talk about murderers. To give her story depth, she writes a real murderer, Kevin (Mads Wittermans), with a number of questions. She reads the letter with answers – in a hilarious, but at the same time uncomfortable, scene. Of course, the answers are laced with words you wouldn’t normally say in front of a class of school-hungry students, so Mariska is dismissed by her teacher. Once home, the poor child doesn’t get the understanding she deserves either, because my mother is getting ready for a date with a new boyfriend.

Mariska’s home situation is made clear at a glance and it is therefore not surprising that the “murderer” and the girl continue to correspond. “Dear pen pal,” is the opening lines of Mariska’s second letter. When she records all kinds of sounds for Kevin on a tape and advises him how he can hear the sea he missed so much, you almost literally see the wall of reluctance and reluctance crumbling from him. The relationship between the two becomes closer, and this is mainly shown from Kevin’s point of view. The conversations they have by letter are made visual because Mariska is in his cell and they talk to each other. In his eyes, she is still the ten-year-old girl whose photo hangs in his cell, even when they finally meet for the first time eight years later. Mariska is a beautiful young woman (played by Laurien Riha) and that is not just a switch for Kevin … The bond that the two pen pals have developed quickly and naturally turns into love, but consuming that love is not easy the prison. Does the relationship between Kevin and Mariska have a future?

Laura van Dijk has previously written a screenplay for a successful One Night Stand film, “Under the influence” (2013). With her sister Nova van Dijk as director, she was also responsible for the comic “Kattenkwaad” (2010), which was even the Dutch entry for the Oscar for best short film. For One Night Stand film “Vrij”, director Martijn de Jong (with “Stand-by-me” (2013) also an Oscar submission by name) set to work on her script. With only a handful of actors and limited locations, “Free” covers a number of years in the life of someone who is anything but free. But you can also be stuck outside the prison walls, it turns out.

“Free” is a poignant drama about an unattainable desire for an ordinary life. Walks on the beach, sand between your toes, being able to touch your lover whenever you want, that sort of thing. Both the emotional life of Kevin and that of Mariska is interpreted in a convincing way, but Mads Wittermans especially excels at his playing. He makes Kevin a layered character, for whom it is easy to feel compassion despite his shadowy past. The playful, imaginative elaboration of the serious screenplay keeps the film well balanced. “Free” is an impressive calling card for everyone who contributed to this film.

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