HOUSEKEEPING FOR BEGINNERS (Domakinstvo za Pocetnici) Review: Nobody Is Ever Home Alone in Modern Family Dramedy

Contributing Writer
HOUSEKEEPING FOR BEGINNERS (Domakinstvo za Pocetnici) Review: Nobody Is Ever Home Alone in Modern Family Dramedy

In a house somewhere at the outskirts of North Macedonia’s capital Skopje lives social worker Dora (Anamaria Marinca from 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) with her partner Sauda (Alina Serban from Gypsy Queen), Sauda’s two daughters, their gay friend Toni (Vladimir Tintor) and a few random strays thrown from their own homes.

Soon, the group is joined by Tony’s new lover, a young Roma man named Ali (newcomer Samson Selim, an absolute delight). This complicated, but stable dynamic mostly works for everyone, until Sauda is diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Realizing she doesn't have much time, she asks Dora and Toni to take care of her kids. Spoiler alert: the pair is hilariously ill-equipped for the new responsibility, and the children in question are mostly confused about this major change too.

Goran Stolevski’s third feature premiered last year in the Horizons section at the Venice Film Festival, where it won the Queer Lion Award. It then proceeded to make a successful festival tour around the world and become the official bid from North Macedonia for the Best International Feature Film at the Oscars race.

There’s no other way to say it: despite the heavy topics it brings up and the looming death within the story, Housekeeping for Beginners is a crowd pleaser and a feel-good movie. There’s a comfortable familiarity to this story – even if details differ, you have definitely seen it before; for instance, at the last year’s Busan and Chicago film festival, there was a notable feature centered around a unique family right next to Stolevski’s film – Mika Gustafson’s superb Paradise Is Burning. It’s a tale about a found family, a group of people who recognize themselves as part of a whole regardless of whether they are tied together by blood or law.

And, like with most films about found families, you can pretty much guess the main dynamic here. The moody teenager (Mia Mustafa) will be gradually learning to come around. The youngest kid (Dzada Selim is also predictably the star of the film) will form an attachment to the latest arrival in the group and be a bubbly fountain of wisdom. And love – in all its forms – will come through.

The knowledge doesn’t take away from the viewing pleasure or the story’s complexity, though, quite the opposite. There’s a poignant twist to the narrative as Stolevski’s script underlines the outcast status of all the main players, whether because of their sexuality, ethnicity or social standing.

Housekeeping for Beginners also signifies another curious entry in Goran Stolevski’s filmography. Born in North Macedonia, the director makes films both in his native country and in his new homeland, Australia. There, he shot Of an Age in 2022, a gentle and genuinely romantic story of love and passion. And in the same year he made an absolutely tonally different You Won’t Be Alone, a gloomy horror set in the 19th century Macedonia. 

In Housekeeping for Beginners, Stolevski tries something diffetent yet again; both the visuals and the sound of the film is chaos incarnate. The cinematography by Naum Doksevski, who previously shot Stolevski’s Sundance winner short Would You Look at Her, employs an incredibly free, mobile camera and some cinéma verité impressionism.

The characters are always in motion. They also constantly talk, mostly over each other, and when they don’t, they sing. Honestly, if nothing else, this movie could very well be the best representation of any home party thrown by a slightly dysfunctional but loving family.

The film is now playing, only in movie theaters, via Focus Features. Visit the official site for locations and ticket information

Screen Anarchy logo
Do you feel this content is inappropriate or infringes upon your rights? Click here to report it, or see our DMCA policy.
Alina SerbanAnamaria MarincaGoran StolevskiSamson Selim

More about Housekeeping for Beginners

Around the Internet