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Film review: Let Me Go

Anne Joseph is disappointed by a film about multi-generational trauma

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    A scene from Let Me Go
    A scene from Let Me Go Photo: Andrew Ogilvy

    Its premise is a strong one — an indie, crowd-funded film about generational trauma, family secrets and how decisions made in the past impact on mother-daughter relationships in the present. Let Me Go is a story that deserves to be told but director Polly Steele’s treatment of it feels forced and contrived.

    The drama is based on the real-life story of German born Helga Schneider, whose mother abandoned her when she was four years old in order to pursue a career in the SS.

    Juliet Stevenson stars as the 62-year-old Helga. When she receives a letter from a cousin in Austria informing her that her mother, Traudi (Swedish actor, Karin Bertling), whom she has not seen for decades, is dying, she realises that she must respond. She travels from her native London to Vienna, where she finally faces her own demons and confronts the woman who left her.

    Helga’s adored granddaughter, Emily — with mother issues of her own — insists on accompanying her; ignorant of Traudi’s past, she is keen to meet the great-grandmother she understood had died long ago. But, as the past unravels, the long-term effect on Traudi’s descendents becomes apparent.

    Stevenson is in full thesp-mode but speaks with an inconsistent and questionable German accent.

    Although her anxiety and tension at meeting Traudi is palpable and Bertling is convincing as the former Auschwitz camp guard, much of the showdown between them is exaggerated.

    Credibility is further hampered by cliché: “What do you want from me,” asks Traudi. “How did you become this?” Helga wonders.

    A weak sub-plot about characters’ love lives adds little; in fact Emily’s liaison with handsome barista Serge is predictable and gives licence to some more cringey one-liners.

    After a visit to Vienna’s Holocaust Memorial, she ponders, over a glass of red: “So many people, I wonder who they were. I only wish I knew them.”

    Beautiful cinematography does not make up for superficiality in this uneven and hammy film.

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