The death of a child is the worst thing that can happen to a parent. However, the loss is accompanied by so many different emotions that the subject is extremely suitable for the film medium. The psychology of the characters can be explored, often with fatal consequences. Moreover, it gives the filmmakers the freedom to explore the limits of the human psyche also visually. This has resulted in a number of highly regarded films that, without becoming sentimental, provide a powerful visual representation of the grieving process. In “Don’t Look Now” (Nicolas Roeg; 1973), grieving parents try to forget their grief in Venice, Italy, where the psychological delusions of father John Baxter (Donald Sutherland) only exacerbate matters. The film’s surreal depth is reflected in the disturbing yet memorable viewing experience. “Antichrist” (Lars von Trier; 2009) takes a more provocative approach when the nameless mother (played by Charlotte Gainsbourg) goes down both mentally and physically in absolute madness. It should come as no surprise that this film also comes across as disturbing with Von Trier at the helm. The grief ultimately results in pure abjectness.
“In your name” does it smaller, but with the same effectiveness. The everyday couple Ton (Barry Atsma) and Els (Lotte Verbeek) cannot be happier when the latter is expecting a baby. When their daughter dies soon, however, the young family is abruptly torn apart. Ton initially tries to pick up life again, but increasingly runs into the limits of his own abilities. His pent-up grief remains dormant and is waiting to explode. Els has her own way of dealing with grief. She immediately throws out all her grief, making it easier for her to make room for the loss. The baby things go with the dirt, she moves happily to a new, bigger house and soon afterwards she turns out to be pregnant again.
This is all going too fast for Ton. It looks like their baby was never born. Els refuses to talk about it, the urn with mortal remains is put away and the grief is exchanged for everyday delusions. His pent-up feelings slowly come to the surface. He fantasizes with his demented father that his little girl is still alive. His work as a lab technician is also starting to suffer. The outside world lives on, but Ton cannot keep up. Gradually he ends up in a desperate no man’s land from which escape seems impossible. The two grow apart little by little and with disastrous consequences.
“In your name” stays close to the characters. Except for a few establishing shots, the camera is always focused on the grieving pair. Because the film does not use point of views, all emotions can be read objectively from their faces. Their mood is fixed in their facial expressions. This direct approach makes the painful grief they try to share perfectly tangible. Both actors succeed very well in this. Ideal son-in-law Atsma is happy to show a more dark side of himself. Verbeek once again proves that she has played herself towards the Dutch acting top.
Although some scenes seem a bit clichéd (rain at a funeral!) And Ton’s cover may come too quickly, the restrained way of filming and the slow construction are successful. The lingering rupture that arises between the two main characters thus connects powerfully with other films about the loss of child.