VIFF Film Review - Darkroom (2021)

Still image of Sofija in the film Darkroom

Darkroom is a film that takes an intimate look at how grief can play out in our lives, especially when the relationship we had with the deceased was distant and complicated. Sofija and her boyfriend are staying in her late father’s apartment while they pack up his things. Going through her father’s possessions brings up memories and quite literally his ghost. As she meticulously loads an old camera she can feel his presence watching over her, guiding her through the instructions which she surely has gone over again and again until she got it right.

Packing up her father’s apartment is definitely a heavy emotional undertaking and it’s leaving Sofija unable to sleep. Completely exhausted she seems to be just going through the motions at work and with her partner and avoiding phone calls from her father’s coworker Selma. Sofija has now reached the deadline to clean out her father’s office at the university. It’s been a year since he’s passed and she can’t put it off any longer.

The memories of her father seem to be haunting her. In her dreams he’s often a shadowy figure who frequently came in and out of her life throughout her childhood. When she did get the chance to spend time with him she was afraid that if she did anything wrong he’d go away again and it would be her fault. All she wanted as a child was to know her father cared. She speaks to him in her dream and tells him that she didn’t really know him. She recounts his funeral where his students spoke fondly of him and it seems that not even his students, who admired him so deeply, knew who he really was either.

Sometime grief can be more than we can bear. It has no timeline and although there are stages of grief, they’re definitely not linear and that’s seen in Sofija’s experience. You are left to wonder though if she is mourning the loss of her father or the loss of the father she wished she had. Either way it seems finally taking care of her father’s estate gives her the closure she needed to be able to move on.

Darkroom is available to stream through VIFF Connect and limited in cinema screenings.

The 40th annual Vancouver International Film Festival runs until Oct 11.

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