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By Elaine Hegwood Bowen
Moscow, Belgium is a quaint movie about Matty and her family: her art teacher husband Werner, (Johan Heldenbergh) with whom she’s been since high school, her daughters Vera and Fien, and a son named Peter.
Matty (Barbara Sarafian) works in the post office and probably thought her life had been made and that she’d live a nice, ripe old age laying in the arms of Werner. But at some point, Werner had a mid-life crisis and he left Matty and his children to go live with a younger woman named Gail. Matty figured her only problem was missing Werner, as well as raising her children and working in a boring job.
And then there was the car accident—wherein she meets Johnny (Jergen Delnaet), the truck driver who would literally and figuratively take Matty for a spin.
Matty is described as a woman whose soul is full of dents and bruises, and it takes her a while to respond to Johnny’s apparent interest in her. There wouldn’t be much wrong with Johnny, but Matty thinks the age gap, she’s 41 and he’s 30, is too much; plus deep down she’s pining for her husband to come to his senses and return to his family.
Immediately following the accident Matty and Johnny have harsh words for each other, and she’s thoroughly pissed that her car’s trunk is no longer operable. Johnny takes it upon himself to secure Matty’s address, and he just shows up to offer to repair her trunk. She reluctantly offers him a dinner of blood sausage to repay him, and thus begins the couple’s relationship.
Her daughter helps with her wardrobe for the first date, and Matty finds herself in the truck’s cab at the end of the evening having sex—an experience she vows that will never happen again. But if she and Johnny are to have sex again, it would have to be in the truck’s cab, because the truck is where he lives.
Matty is just embarrassed by the entire episode. But when she returns home, Vera reminds her in a sassy way that her t-shirt is on backwards, although Matty swears that it was an unmemorable date and that nothing happened.
Johnny is immediately smitten and he later wows Matty with a pair of red Versace pumps he buys during one of his runs to Italy. But it is not as simple as Matty liking Johnny, as she discovers that Vera doesn’t care for Johnny, and it’s also revealed that Johnny has a history of beating his ex-wife.
As the unlikely relationship between the two progresses, Johnny falls madly in love, even spending time at Matty’s house with the children, eating dinner and just hanging out with the children.
But in dialogue that’s made so simple and direct throughout most of the movie, Matty is emphatic when she tells Johnny that she’s waiting for her husband to return. She further tells Johnny that she thinks he’s a jerk and after a public scene when she and her children are out with Johnny and run into his ex-wife and her new lawyer husband, Matty is convinced that Johnny has violent tendencies when he drinks, and she calls the whole thing off.
In the interim, Matty receives that for what she wishes, her husband acknowledges that his “fling” with the younger woman won’t last forever and he finally makes up his mind to return home.
This causes bittersweet confusion for Matty, and in one scene the entire family, with husband and boyfriend, as well as Vera’s unexpected guest, shares a dinner.
Werner and Johnny began arguing, belittling each other’s professions, and Matty has had her fill of it all. She storms out of the room, saying she wanted all the men to please leave.
Afterward, Matty is forced to do a bit of soul searching. Werner is banking on the fact that Matty will want her family back, no matter that he left her for the younger woman. Vera is pretty much concerned that Matty won’t accept her new love—who turns out to be female; and Johnny resorts to a passionate version of Mona Lisa via Karaoke to win back Matty’s heart.
The conclusion of the movie holds surprises for everyone, but finally Matty appears to be free and ready to make the decision of a lifetime; one with which she can live, hopefully this time, for the rest of her life.
Moscow, Belgium will screen at the Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport Ave., Chicago beginning Friday, Jan. 9-15. For more info: visit www.musicboxtheatre.com.
Elaine Hegwood Bowen is a veteran public relations and journalism professional and former journalism professor. She’s publicist for her daughter, Hip-Hop artist Psalm One. A native Chicago South Sider, Elaine was a recent University of Maryland Bio Ethics, Health Disparities & Clinical Trials Fellow and winner of a Black Press Messenger Award.
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