“This is a family matter.”
Bettina Oberli’s My Wonderful Wanda is about family—and about the ways families become intertwined without planning to. It also serves as a bit of social commentary of the relationship of the haves and have nots of society.
Wanda (Agnieszka Grochowska) is a Polish caregiver who has come to a lakeside Swiss home to care for Josef Wegmeister-Gloor as he recovers from a stroke. Wanda comes for three month stents while leaving her children at home with her parents. This is perceived (at least by the Wegmeister-Gloors) as a win-win. They get inexpensive care for their husband and father; Wanda makes more money than she could at home. But it is also a strain on Wanda’s family in Poland.
The Swiss family has two adult children with their own foibles. Gregi has been groomed (against his will) to take over the family business, but prefers birds (mostly stuffed). He’s also a bit in love with Wanda. Sophie is married to a lawyer, but is unsatisfied with her life. Elsa, the family matriarch, is controlling, but often in ways that seem very kind. Wanda is skilled at negotiating the various personalities and is especially good at making Josef happy.
When Wanda becomes pregnant, it raises a number of issues in both families. How does this affect inheritance? Is Wanda just trying to extort money from the family? What truths have been hidden through the years that must now be addressed?
The film is a bit uneven in its movement back and forth between comedy and drama, but it does create an interesting look at what makes up family. Even though the Polish and Swiss families are very different in outlook, Wanda has managed to bring them together, even if in an adversarial way. Each family is concerned with its own well being, but also with how Wanda’s child will be incorporated in each.
The rub comes when the child comes to be seen as a commodity. There are solutions to the problem that are proposed that seem like everyone benefits, but as with the idea that the use of cheap Polish labor is “win-win”, it fails to take in the personal cost that these solutions create.
In the end, it is Wanda who must struggle against all the attitudes of both families to decide what will become of her child. And in that decision it may be that many other issues will find new solutions as well.
My Wonderful Wanda is in theaters and available via virtual cinema.
Photos courtesy of Zodiac Pictures