Having picked up the Golden Bear with his preceding endeavour Child’s Pose, auteur Calin Peter Netzer returns to the Berlinale with Ana, Mon Amour – and while belonging to the quite remarkable Romanian New Wave, it’s a film that bears uncanny similarities to Blue Valentine, following a near-identical formula, different only in that the paramount relationship at the core of this narrative is flailing for different reasons. Even the male protagonist’s progressive hair loss is identical to Ryan Gosling’s in the Derek Cianfrance movie. Just shave it off mate.

The aforementioned, balding individual is Toma (Mircea Postelnicu), who falls hopelessly in love with Ana (Diana Cavallioti) – a likeminded student who shares a passion for literature. Coming from different social backgrounds, and with two sets of parents refusing to accept their child’s new partner, the hardest obstacle for the couple to overcome is Ana’s illness, suffering from depression and prone to anxiety attacks. While Toma remains committed to the love of his life, despite the struggles in doing so, we move seamlessly between these flashbacks and the present day, where he lies on the sofa of a psychoanalyst (Adrian Titieni), alluding to the prospect that it may not work out after all.

Ana, Mon AmourThe opening act is the strongest to this searingly naturalistic piece, offering an authentic depiction of depression, and how it can can cancerous to a relationship – without necessarily being the fault of the sufferer. We examine how Toma thrives, albeit sub-consciously, off being that shoulder to cry on, the dependable half of the marriage, and when she begins to have more confidence and is assured in herself, it frightens him, he becomes uncomfortable with her sense of independence, as he feels he’s no longer somebody she completely relies upon. The panic attacks are remarkably well-judged too, and Cavallioti is so impressive in the role of Ana, portraying this fragile, volatile mental condition in a disturbingly realistic way.

Such realism is enforced by the way Netzer uses his camera, always moving, as though following his glance to the most subtle of details, like when Ana is washing up and the camera pans down to her hands, following the characters, surveying the room, just as we do with our own eyes. The sheer commitment to making this piece as genuine as possible, which proves to be it’s greatest asset, even adds to the uncomfortable, almost intrusive role the viewer plays, with certain intimate scenes so personal to the couple, we feel guilty for watching – whether that be during sex, or during one of Ana’s breakdowns, either way we’re placed in a position where we feel too close, and it makes for a disquieting experience at times.

Ana, Mon Amour is a real masterclass in narrative structure and the art of storytelling, as the way we move between the present day and flashbacks to tell this story is impeccably well-crafted. However Netzer can’t be commended for offering a fair, balanced perspective of this couple, as we only really see the world through Toma’s eyes, and witness his side of the story. Not that this approach is instantly detrimental, but in the case of this particular tale it does prove to be, for Ana represents a far more intriguing, nuanced character, and it’s a huge shame we bypass her situation to focus in on someone far less interesting.