Housekeeping for Beginners (‘Domakinstvo za Pocetnici’)

DRAMA; 1hr 47min (Macedonian with subtitles)

STARRING: Anamaria Marinca, Samson Selim, Vladimir Tintor, Mia Mustafa, Dzada Selim, Alina Serban

Mama Mia: from left, Dzada Selim and Anamaria Marinca

Social worker Dita (Marinca) and her partner, Suada (Serban), run a chaotic ship in their North Macedonian home, crewed by Suada’s obstreperous daughters, teenage Vanesa (Mustafa) and five-year-old Mia (Dzada Selim). Adding sketchy input is their splenetic housemate Toni (Tintor), Toni’s 19-year-old boyfriend Ali (Samson Selim, who in reality, fun fact, is Dzada’s father) and three lesbian sidekicks.


The vibe is messy and profane, with writer-director Goran Stolevski (You Won’t Be Alone) circling the action in the same laissez-faire spirit as the characters immersed in it. Their erratic dynamic is stitched together by a collective willingness to make it work, an impetus that comes unglued when Suada succumbs to pancreatic cancer, leaving everyone to flounder. To hang onto Suada’s daughters, a grieving Dita, who has kept her sexuality to herself at work and to whom motherhood is an abstract concept, and the perpetually pissed-off Toni, whose idea of romance is a swipe on a dating site, reluctantly agree to become husband and wife.


Given the sheen of a Hollywood sitcom, this marriage of opposites would be a so-so soufflé. Stolevski has a more textured mix in mind, in which the adults running the show are patently out of their depth. Vanesa, missing her mother, is meanwhile chock-full of teenage rage, leaving little Mia to view her putative new parents with uncomfortable clarity. “All they do is fight like babies,” she observes to Ali, who has his own battle to fight. “They don’t even love each other.”


As Ali is quick to assure her, there are different kinds of love. That this caseload of neuroses surmounts its learning curve to carve out a new way forward is an affirmation of keeping whatever faith you can muster and a trial by fire all the sweeter for its transformative heat.