I can’t leave the subject of foreign language films without putting in a word for Slovakia’s entry, Eva Nová, and its star, Emília Vásáryová. I wince when I look at the list of nominees in the Academy’s Best Actress category. I don’t want to name names, but some of the American nominees just don’t hold a candle to several of the actresses in the 82 foreign language entries I watched this year. It’s true that Isabelle Huppert gained a nomination for her performance in France’s Elle, but there have been numerous more impressive performances than those of the other four nominees. You can start with Sandra Hüller in Toni Erdmann, and add Julia Vysotskaya in Paradise and Ksenija Marinković in On the Other Side, but the real winner goes to Emília Vásáryová. Now 74 years old, Vásáryová has been acting in films for 55 years. A Slovak friend of mine described her as “the Sophia Loren of Slovakia” because she has given great performances at every stage of her career.
In Eva Nová, Vásáryová plays Eva, a washed-up former star and sex symbol who destroyed her career by abusing alcohol. Now in her sixties, she is trying to put her life back together. Despite still being a talented actress, no one will hire her, and she is forced to work as a shelving clerk at a grocery store, while trying to reconcile with the son she abandoned, who is now, himself, alcoholic. Because she has spent her whole life acting, even she has trouble determining when she is being sincere.