Film Review: Mellow Mud


Childhood’s End: Tragic circumstances force a young girl to fight for what’s left of her family.

Renars Vimba’s feature-length directorial debut is an emotionally resonant account of one person’s struggles against the disintegration of everything she knows.

In rural Latvia ,a young girl and her brother have endured a traumatic childhood. Following the death of their father, they have had to cope with being abandoned by their mother. Living with an acidic grandmother they endure a life with no comforts and precious little affection. The alternative to a harsh existence in a run-down farmhouse with a toxic grandparent is being sent to an orphanage.

When her grandmother unexpectedly dies Raya (Elīna Vaska) is forced to become protector for her younger brother, Robis (Andžejs Jānis Lilientāls). Several months away from her eighteenth birthday Raya is not legally entitled to be appointed guardian of her sibling. To prevent the pair being taken into care she buries her grandmother in a neighbouring field. Surviving by fraudulently claiming the deceased’s pension, she hopes to fool social services into thinking her grandmother is still alive.


More than a coming-of-age drama, Mellow Mud highlights the collateral damage caused by economic migration. Noting a trend in Latvian cinema to focus on people who have chosen to leave the country, writer-director Renars Vimba has woven a brutal but life-affirming story about what happens to the people left behind.

Raya and Robis’ mother has fled to London tempted by the lure of higher wages and better living conditions. Meanwhile, back in Latvia two children have spent years anxiously waiting for a postcard or letter inviting them to live in a land of supposed opportunity

Harbouring hope that if she can track down her mother Raya will be able to persuade the absentee parent to return to Latvia and take control of the family, the teenager resolves to enter an English language competition. The prospect of winning a trip to London appears to offer a potential solution to her immediate problems. After persistent persuading, Raya’s teacher agrees to submit her as the school’s candidate.


Amid the emotional turmoil of having to grow up far too soon, Raya experiences the first flowerings of love as she falls for her teacher. Already adept at concealing secrets she now has to hide their illicit relationship.

A frank examination of disillusionment and isolation, Mellow Mud offers an insight into the harsh reality of growing up in a Latvian rural community. Shot from a teenager’s point-of-view the film is non-judgemental and brutally realistic.

Mellow Mud offers proof that Latvian filmmakers are using their experiences, hopes, and dreams to create a sincere form of cinema that pays homage to the French New Wave while striking out as a distinct form in its own right. A poignant film, this account of a teenager confronting adversity will linger in your memory.

Mellow Mud is screening at the Nordic-Baltic Film Festival.