On a trip to a snowy cabin in “Pink Moon,” Iris (Julia Akkermans) can’t understand why her father Jan (Johan Leysen) would bathe himself using the sludge outside, though he finds it more refreshing than taking a shower. There are a lot of things she doesn’t understand these days as the trip into the mountains is actually something of a goodbye with Jan announcing nearly a year earlier to Iris and her brother Ivan (Eelco Smits) that upon turning 75, he has no desire to make it to 76, in spite of a completely clean bill of health and his mind has been set on taking his own life to the point that the powder he procured to take care of things had expired and he had to buy a new supply. Iris was unaware of any of this until a birthday dinner that became far less celebratory than expected, and while she knows she has about 12 months until the deed is done, it doesn’t make it any easier to come to terms with losing someone who has meant so much to her.
Death may loom large in Floor van der Meulen’s bittersweet debut, but it never overwhelms the delicate drama the writer/director has put together as Iris gradually sheds her ideas of how the end would come for her father and starts to look at things from his point of view. It seems the clock was ticking ever since the death of her mother, though that only makes the impending loss of Jan more devastating when she’ll have no one left while Jan already feels that way, and although she and her brother Ivan are close on most things, seeing eye to eye on this is all but impossible. Refreshingly, there is no other man Iris is concerned with other than Jan, nor is there any concern for her stability when she has a thriving professional life as a clean water advocate, but her impulse to stay upbeat and come up with solutions can work against her when what her father is demanding has such a sense of finality.
Between Akkerman, who boasts a Buster Keaton-esque blank face in which any emotion can stumble across, and the occasional intrusion of a punk rock soundtrack as punctuation, “Pink Moon” eludes the treacly, predictable path it could’ve easily gone down, instead enlivened by staying the course with Iris as she experiences a swirl of various emotions as she affords herself more time with her father, knowing she’ll soon have less. Van der Meulen has fun observing Iris and Ivan preparing for their father’s death as if it were any other event on the calendar, having to agree on a date like your usual family get-together and divvying up his things with his blessing while he’s still in the house. The awkwardness of the situation is in stark contrast to the director’s assured presentation, adhering to the grace Iris ultimately shows under pressure and despite a story that’s about learning to let go, “Pink Moon” leaves one with something to hold onto.
“Pink Moon” will be available to stream on the Tribeca at Home platform through June 19th.