?Hope dies last.?
The Oscar?-nominated documentary A House Made of Splinters, directed by Simon Lereng Wilmont, takes place in the shadow of the war in Ukraine. The location is only 20 kilometers from the front. While the war is not explicitly a part of the film, the film cannot be viewed without knowing that the turmoil that faces Ukraine is an ever-present reality.
There are several shelters for children in Eastern Ukraine. This film takes us to one in Lysychansk. The children here are brought by authorities until the courts can figure out what to do with them. For some it will mean termination of parental rights. They may be allowed to live with relatives, put into a foster family, or sent to an orphanage. Most of the children we meet come from homes that involve alcoholism. We are told that ?Every tenth door hides a broken family.? We follow three children in their time at the shelter.
We first see Eva when she tries to call her mother who doesn?t pick up. Then she calls her grandmother and they talk about the mother?s drinking. For such young children, all those we meet are well acquainted with alcoholism. Eva is well-behaved. She could be a poster child for the needs of children. She?s been here nine months and something needs to be found for her.
Kolya is something of a problem. He sometimes runs away from the facility. He is brought back at one point by the police in handcuffs after stealing a piddling amount of money. He is attracted to some of the older boys and seeks to imitate them. He wants to be tough, but we can see he?s still just a boy.
Sasha is quiet, often in the background as others are playing. But she makes a friend in Alina. The two of them form a very close bond. In time, Alina finds a family to take her in, leaving Sasha still waiting for her future to develop.
We see the social workers as they try to care for the physical, emotional, and legal needs of the children. We get a sense of their own struggles as one of them talks about the cyclical nature of the situation that moves from one generation to the next.
This is a film that is filled with pain. The pain of the children who often feel alone and unloved. These are children who do not want to return to their parents. At one point we hear a group of boys telling scary stories. They are stories of their fathers when drinking. The emotional scars that are forming will not easily be cured. There is also the more generalized pain to the society that has been thoroughly devastated by the war.
But this is also film that has hope. We see that there are people who care. There are those who open arms to embrace those in need. There are homes that are healing. There are friendships that form in even the most difficult situations. As I write this, the war in Ukraine is reaching the one year mark. It is important that hope continues to be seen in a world that may seem hopeless.
A House Made of Splinters is in theaters and available to rent on Prime Video.