del mae’s review published on Letterboxd:
Following the death of his grandmother, nine-year-old Roman leaves the Ukraine to join his mother Oksana in Germany, where she works illegally as an in-home nurse. Thrilled to be reunited, the boy soon realizes he’ll have to share Oksana with Gert, the old widower with whom she’s lived since caring for his dying wife. Despite Gert’s good nature and genuine interest in bonding with Roman, a love triangle of sorts develops as the lonely boy longs to be the sole object of his mother’s affection. At odds and unable to communicate due to a language barrier, Oksana acts as the family’s mediator and translator until she falls ill. With no one but Gert to turn to, Roman must learn to live with his rival. But when an accident leaves him totally alone, the curious and rage-filled boy must fend for himself as he waits to be taken from an increasingly desperate situation. An offbeat drama that highlights the struggles of undocumented immigrants, RIVAL blends Yelizar Nazarenko’s emotionally complex performance as Roman with elements of horror, comedy, and even surrealism to reflect one child’s turbulent inner world.
Written for CIFF46 www.clevelandfilm.org/films/2021/rival