Patriarchy is alive and flourishing in Albania, as portrayed in Florenc Papas’ debut feature Open Door.
Rudina (Luli Bitri) is married to a man who is always away for work. That doesn’t stop him from criticizing her on the phone for not doing a good enough job of taking care of his parents and their own 5-year-old son. Rudina’s younger sister, Elma (Jonida Vokshi), has become pregnant in Italy, so Rodina sends her money for an abortion. But when Elma arrives at the port of Vlorë in Albania, Elma is still pregnant. The money that Rodina sent her? The father in Italy kept it.
Most of the film is the road trip Rodina and Elma take to see their father on the first anniversary of their mother’s death. It is unimageable that their father will accept that one of his daughters is pregnant although unmarried. So the sisters come up with a scheme to pay a man to pretend to be Elma’s husband and the unborn baby’s father. The first man they approach accepts their money, but later claims he never agreed to do anything for the money they gave him.
And what about their late mother, who spent her life submitting to her husband?
Not all the men in Open Door are awful. Rudina meets an older hotel manager who tells her how he saved one of his daughters from an abusive husband. And the sisters do find a friendly man who agrees to act the part while visiting the sisters’ father.
Still, Open Road is really about two sisters searching for their roles in a changing society and re-bonding despite the arguments that flare up between them.