Moja & Vesna (sometimes listed as Moja Vesna) is the feature debut of writer and director Sara Kern. The filmmaker is Slovenian-Australian and lives in Melbourne. An old adage goes, “Write what you know,” and Kern did just that. The family drama is set in and around Melbourne and centers on a Slovenian-Australian family. So is this another indie gem in the wildly underrated Australian film scene, or does Kearn fail to realize the material’s potential?
Moja (Loti Kovacic) is 10 years old and is trying to hold her family together after her mom died. Moja’s father, Milos (Gregor Bakovic), is now distant and lost. Her 20-year-old sister, Vesna (Mackenzie Mazur), is trying her darnedest to ignore her pregnancy. But Moja preoccupies herself with it, searching for free baby clothes, cribs, and the like.
Moja’s quest brings her into the lives of Miranda (Claudia Karvan) and Miranda’s daughter Danger (Flora Feldman). Danger is Moja’s age but more pop culture-focused, and she does stunts that drive her mother crazy. Still, the two kids become fast friends. However, her family’s fragility and life’s pressures do mount up. Is Moja strong enough to help her father and sister grieve, mourn herself, and get to experience the fun and awe of childhood?
“…10 years old and…trying to hold her family together after her mom died.”
Moja & Vesna tells a simple but fascinating story of a family in flux. The characterizations are deep and realistic. Moja’s uncertainty over how to react to her mom’s potential suicide leads her to distract herself with Vesna’s pregnancy. Kern lets the poignancy of that fact lead the plot. Vesna also has an emotional throughline, though to say more and enter spoiler territory. Even the more minor characters, such as Miranda and Danger, have complete arcs. By the end, there’s a sense of hope for the future of these newfound friends.
Kern’s subtle direction keeps the characters front and center but never feels pedestrian. A slow push-in on Moja after telling Danger she can’t hang out today after all is telling. The actors are all brilliant, but Kovacic stands out. She’s sweet, fun, heartbreaking, and as real as can be. Her chemistry with Mazur is outstanding, and the two feel like sisters. For her part, Mazur makes Vesna’s wavering state believable and understandable. Bakovic is understated but sells his love for his on-screen offspring well.
Moja & Vesna is a profound emotional rollercoaster. Kern follows in the steps of Paul Currie and James Di Martino and made an indie film that hits all its beats authentically. The cast is brilliant, all delivering fully realized performances. Kovacic gives strong Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense vibes, as she innately understands complex emotions at such a young age. Seek out this drama and prepare to be moved.
For more information about Moja & Vesna, visit IndiePix Films.
"…a profound emotional rollercoaster."