Fantastic Fest 2019 Review: PELICAN BLOOD

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

A mother’s true love usually knows no bounds and said mothers will do whatever it takes to defend their children, even if this desperation drives them to take seemingly irrational measures. Those are the central themes of this powerful and emotionally charged film which played the Fest this year. Katrin Gebbe’s Pelican Blood is an unnerving, stressful, and emotional film that takes the heart of a loving mother and stretches it to its limits. Though its shares themes with The Exorcist, this movie presents them in its own dynamic ways and delivers a gripping story that deserves praise.

Nina Hoss stars as Wiebke, a horse trainer and single mother who wishes to take in a foster child in hopes of a future adoption. That wish comes true when she is given the opportunity to foster little Raya (Katerina Lipovska), a seemingly timid child who comes from an abusive family. Though Raya initially seems harmless she begins to display the signs and behavior of a mentally disturbed and destructive child. Eventually Raya’s behavior worsens in some truly frightening ways and this problem causes problems in Wiebke’s life with her daughter Nikolina (Adellua Constance-Ocleppo) and a new love interest (Murathan Muslu). The problems and stress that result soon even take a toll on her career as a horse trainer. This leads Wiebeke to desperately seek some help of a more unorthodox kind.

Written and directed by Katrin Gebbe, Pelican Blood delivers chills, suspense and shocks in a distressing film. Gebbe’s movie doesn’t offer any easy answers and can force its audiences to give up hope for Wiebke and her foster child Raya. Still, Wiebke refuses to give up and actress Nina Hoss genuinely embodies this drive. It is a powerful representation of a mother’s love and is a movie which deserves some love and respect in return.

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