Sydney Film Festival: One Day

Olivia Watson
13th Jun 2018

Can you picture a day in the life of a working mother of three?

For some that would come far too easily. For the rest of us, Hungarian director Zsófia Szilágyi's debut feature film One Day, which premiered at Cannes Critic’s Week, gives a chillingly believable insight.

Conceptually it is simple. We follow Anna (Zsófia Szamosi) for a period just over 24 hours, as she juggles her three children, a teaching job, illness, extracurriculars, her potentially unfaithful husband, a persistent mother-in-law, leaking taps, unpaid bills and more.

Anna's stoicism is quickly evident, as she gathers herself in the face of each challenge and change that threaten to throw her day of course, and manages to just get on with it all. Entirely at the expense of her own physical and emotional needs, of course.

The day progresses in a gently persistent manner, with life finding new twists and complications for the exhausted mother seemingly on an hourly basis. She is clearly the hero of the film, not willing or able to rely on others to help her, but simply taking a deep breath and finding a way to work things out herself. Just like most mothers.

Despite the cultural differences, this average day in a busy, financially struggling Hungarian family is completely relatable for international audiences. There are many murmurs of recognition and empathy from the crowd in the large Sydney audience of the State Theatre.

Szamosi's performance is excellent. She is vulnerable, weary, relatable and yet somehow almost super-humanly capable of handling the chaos of life - a tribute to all mothers. 

The three children are also spectacular - Ambrus Barcza as the charismatic eldest, Simon, Zorka Varga-Blaskó as energetic Sári and Márk Gárdos as young Márkó. The trio give captivating performances and interact beautifully with their screen family.

Speaking after the Sydney screening, director Zsófia Szilágyi explained her aim to represent the reality of life for women, something she feels is not usually depicted on screen. Not a mother herself, she has captured motherhood wonderfully. She described how the physical claustrophobia of the apartment the family lives in (windows were blocked out to enable filming of night scenes during daylight hours for the sake of the child actors) was actually not initially intended to be a feature of the film's meaning, but indeed ended up adding to the sense of claustrophobia in Anna's life.

Szilágyi smiles and says, "you can only know after finishing a film what it really is about".

It's a simple celebration of an often untold story of so many women.

One Day screened at the State Theatre during the Sydney Film Festival, which continues until June 17th.

Read our review of My 20th Century, a 1988 masterpiece by Hungarian director Ildikó Enyedi that also screened in this year's festival, for a contrasting reflection on a different time in that country.