What’s perhaps most moving in Waiting for August, a quiet film of weight and joy, is its sense of desperate normalcy. Newcomer Teodora Ana Mihai’s accomplished doc follows Romanian 15-year-old Georgiana’s efforts to care for six younger siblings the year that their mother, broke, leaves Bacău for work in Italy. Georgiana’s asked to become something like a mother just as she’s beginning to feel out what it means to be a woman — and while she needs to find time to master her school’s upcoming placement test.
Mihai shows us Georgiana and the kids on the regular days. A tangle of boys heaps on the bottom tier of a bunk bed, watching TV. In girlish pink tank tops, Georgiana preps meals, scrubs the sink, occasionally delegates small jobs to her charges. Tiny but apparently tireless, this proto–grown-up is so thoroughly in command that it’s a shock to see her bawling on the phone with mom. Hardy Georgiana’s still a kid, but now in charge of bedtimes and Easter-egg coloring.
It’s one of those movies where the easily bored will say nothing happens while the sympathetic will insist that everything does. Beneath pink cinder-block housing projects, the kids press through their days, kept in line by Georgiana and facing only minor crises. The film spans the better part of a year, from winter until August. Mihai shows us some great beauty: a candlelit holiday processional; the whirling lights of a fair; the way a courageous young woman, after carrying her family for all these months, is the one to lug mom’s suitcase home from the train station. By then, you might be the one bawling.