Dezada Selim and Anamaria Marinca in "Housekeeping for Beginners" Source: Focus Features

Review: Queer Domestic Drama 'Housekeeping for Beginners' Raw, Immediate, Affecting

Kilian Melloy READ TIME: 2 MIN.

Filmmaker Goran Stolevski ("Of an Age") returns with his third feature, "Housekeeping for Beginners," a lively domestic drama about what happens when a solidly responsible woman loses her same-sex life partner to cancer and then sets about trying to keep a promise to raise her two orphaned children.

Dita (Anamaria Marinca), a Macedonian woman living in Skopje, is the anchor for a household that includes her partner Suada (Alina Serban), Suona's teenage daughter Vanesa (Mia Mustafi) and younger daughter Mia (Dezada Selim), her gay friend Toni (Vladimir Tintor), and what's either a lesbian couple plus one other housemate or a throuple – it's not entirely clear.

What's unmistakable is the tension that descends over the house when Toni's new boyfriend Ali (Samson Selim) ends up becoming more than a one-night hookup. Dita and Suona are dealing with an urgent medical crisis – Suona's pancreatic cancer, which one medical consultation after the next seems to confirm is terminal – and have no time or bandwidth for yet another person in an already-chaotic house.

The cast of "Housekeeping for Beginners"
Source: Focus Features

But when Ali effortlessly befriends Suona and becomes close to Vanesa and Mia – and when Toni falls in love with him – even Dita moves past her initial reluctance. It's a good thing, too, because she will need all the allies she can get after Suona's death, when she sets about trying to keep a promise to Suona to adopt Vanesa and Mia together with Toni, who is outraged at having been volunteered for the role of fatherhood and only slightly less aggravated that Dita expects him to enter into a façade of a marriage.

Complicating matters is Vanesa's deep unhappiness. Grieving her mother and yearning to break free and live her own life, Vanesa acts out in a number of ways, wanting to go to the city of Shupka and live with her grandmother in an enclave and then, when that turns out to be less than ideal, phoning the police and claiming to have been kidnapped by a "gay cult." (Dita's swift, no-nonsense response to this, ordering everyone out and stowing anything "gay" out of sight before the cops arrive, is indicative of what LGBTQ+ people must have to endure in North Macedonia.)

Raw and immediate, realistic in avoiding sentimentality at every step and yet also tenderly affecting at its core, "Housekeeping for Beginners" is Stolevski's finest film to date, and further evidence of the maturation of an important voice in world cinema.

"Housekeeping for Beginners" opens in theaters April 5.

by Kilian Melloy , EDGE Staff Reporter

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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