Review: I’m Not Telling You Anything, Just Sayin’ (2020)

courtesy of ZFF /

The passive-aggressive sentence of the title is the essence of the inter-generational communication, not only in the Balkans, notorious for its passive- and other forms of aggression, but all over the world. Everybody plays a certain type of typecast role and some things should remain unsaid. The sentence itself is never spoken in the newest short film written and directed by the Croatian actress and filmmaker Sanja Milardović, but it actually catches the spirit of the couple of days the mother and the daughter spend together.

Zrinka (Iva Šimić Šakoronja) comes to her hometown of Rijeka to scout some locations for a film project she is involved in. She stays at her mother’s apartment. Staying with parents is rarely a good idea, and the atmosphere of the first dinner they share together is not the most pleasant. The next day, Zrinka realizes that her mother (played by the Rijeka’s thespian Olivera Baljak) is not acting like her usual self and that she shows the signs of depression.

Wanting to investigate further, she takes her to her assignment the following day. While Zrinka tries her luck with some “probing” question, it seems that the mother wants to pick on a fight with her daughter or anybody else. One specific location is about to open some unhealed wounds and two women of different generations have to switch their societal and psychological roles.

In the first half, I’m Not Telling You Anything, Just Sayin’ drags a bit and it seems like an unnecessarily prolonged exposition for a longer-format film. The ending also proves to be a bit of a let-down, since it does not fulfil the expectations raised in the slowly graded tension between the two women.

Acting is always in the high emotional register, but Milardović does her best to control her actresses, while her directing style is pretty “by the book” with the successions of the reverse shots occasionally interrupted with a situational shot. The cinematographer Ante Cvitanović does his best to show the specific locations of Rijeka, its industrial heritage, the coast and the surrounding hills in a manner that is not all touristy, but still beautiful in a decadent manner.

Technically competent, narratively elliptical and ambiguous, I’m Not Telling You Anything, Just Sayin’ is a potential festival darling. After the two festivals (on one of which it earned a Special Mention) in its co-production country (France), it is landing on the domestic turf of Zagreb Film Festival’s Checkers competition.

courtesy of Castor Multimedia / ZFF

Original title: Ništa ja tebi ne govorim, samo kažem
Year: 2020
Runtime: 19’ 24’’
Countries: Croatia, France
Language: Croatian
Directed by: Sanja Milardović
Written by: Sanja Milardović
Cast: Iva Šimić Šakoronja, Olivera Baljak, Dean Krivačić
Cinematography by: Anre Cvitanović
Editing by: Lea Mileta
Sound design by: Tihomir Vrbanec
Sound recording by: Marko Grgić
Production design by: Tea Truta
Costume design by: Gabrijela Krešić
Make-up by: Sanja Rivić
Visual effects by: Sandrino Požežanec
Colourist: Tomislav Stojanović
Assistant director: Dalija Dozet
Produced by: Matej Merlić
Co-produced by: Emilie Dubois, Olivier Berlemont
Production company: Castor Multimedia
Co-production company: OriGine Films
Supported by: Croatian Audiovisual Centre (HAVC)