Rarely do we know how much pain lies in the eyes of the faces we see every day. Very few take the time to notice and a typical Afrikaans trade mark is to be too proud to ask for help, or to admit when it’s desperately needed. Derick van der Walt’s novel, on which Lien se Langstaan Skoene is based, manages to almost poetically tell a very relevant story.
Matric student Lien Jooste (Carmen Pretorius) is forced to be the responsible breadwinner as her mother Christine Jooste (Franci Swanepoel) spirals into alcoholism after her husband is arrested for fraud and they lose everything. Stuck in a small flat, Christine numbs her sorrows with cheap box wine, while Lien tries to put up a brave face and her younger brother Braam (Tiaan Kelderman) secretly looks at old family videos of a time when they were happy.
Their neighbour ‘tannie’ Bets (Marie Pentz), a very loving and sweet lady with a knack for baking, tries to invite the children over as often as much as possible, knowing well that they rarely get a decent meal. She organizes a waitressing job for Lien at the local coffee shop, but the owner being a very unreasonable woman, gives Lien an ultimatum after a plate broke in an accidental collision. Either she has to work for free until the damage costs are covered or she leaves. The obvious action would be to quit. Worried about where she will get money to pay the bills and keep food on the table, she confides in Bets who mentions that Dirkie (Johan Baird) needs a temp at the hair salon, but unfortunately the employment is short lived and she is once again in a financial predicament.
To top it all, she has a very embarrassing encounter with her drunk mother, practically falling out of the car in front of the whole school. Dirkie who saw them in passing sits Lien down, saying her mother will have to get help. After speaking to minister Gerhard (Hykie Berg) and Bets, they got Christine to agree to go to rehab. They agree that the children will be dining at Bets, for the time being, unaware of the fact that Christine was fired a while back, and there’s no money at all. Lien keeps quiet and starts skipping classes to stand on the side of the road begging for money, disguised with a pair of glasses and a black wig she borrowed from the school.
Without giving too much away, know that this is one of the very rare local films that truly and so honestly takes its audience on a journey with the characters. The plot and characters are very relatable. It is so well executed, that everyone involved deserves applause. The performances are at a very high standard and no one outshines the other, every actor and actress did their part justice. Even those in the small parts manage to convey the different relationships with such subtlety and pristine. They worked as an ensemble and that is rare. Director Andre Odendaal seems to have a special talent for bringing the best out of each performer and situation. This could stem a lot from him being an actor himself.
The film was one of the selected to premier at 2012’s KykNET Silwerskermfees and a special mention was made for lead actress Carmen Pretorius making her debut on the big screen. Carmen also sings the title track, Biki Meer. The music selected feature local talents such as Straatligkinders and Jan Blohm.
The DVD has a bonus items options, with behind the scenes footage and interviews.
South Africa could do with more films of this standard. Be warned however that watching Lien se Langstaan Skoene will stir so many emotions within you. Keep that tissue box handy. But it’s not all tears and heartache, there are many moments of comic relief and an underlining message of hope.