Transference: A Love Story

Transference: A Love Story

Raffaello Degruttola wrote, directed, and stars in Transference: A Love Story, a romantic drama loosely based on his own experience with his father, who suffered from Bi-Polar Disorder. The story is told through the eyes of Katerina (Emilie Sofie Johannesen), a young Norwegian nurse new to the staff of a London hospital. Katerina is smitten after a handsome older nurse, Nik (Degruttola), consoles her through a hard day at work. She comes onto him and at first, he resists her advances. But once he caves, the two embark on a torrid affair that they elect to keep secret from colleagues. Katerina soon begins to suspect that Nik is also keeping a very big secret from her. 

This is also a fish-out-of-water story for both Katerina and Nik, who are first generation immigrants to England. Katerina’s roommate, and many of their co-workers are also immigrants. Degruttola’s script spends a little time on how immigrants struggle more because of language barriers and prejudice. Katerina’s roommate is also very prudish and judgmental and there’s an implied rift between her and her family so Katerina really has no one to talk to about her struggles. Nik would prefer not to talk at all, if he can help it. In contrast, there is a lot of unnecessary voiceover from Katerina but it doesn’t tell us anything new. If anything, it further drives home the notion that Katerina doesn’t really want to know what’s going on with Nik. She prefers to remain frustrated in the dark rather than face an ugly truth. 

Degruttola often relies on the score to embody the characters’ emotions. The music is habitually intense, and sometimes it feels like he’s telegraphing a plot development from a Lifetime movie that never comes to fruition. I kept expecting Nik to hit Katerina or to murder his pregnant ex-wife. Though this is not that kind of film, occasionally the music betrays Degruttola’s true intentions for his characters. It’s unfortunate because music for films can be so cost-prohibitive but it’s important to make sure the music is sending the message the director intended. 

Transference is often boring or frustrating. Katerina and Nik are not fun Hollywood damaged. They like to ignore problems and keep things from each other, which often makes their interactions as terse as they are tense. They frequently storm away from one another with no resolution to their conflicts. I’m sure this is very true to life but it doesn’t make for a good time at the movies. 

Degruttola’s feature debut is an authentic portrayal of the complications that arise when two people enter into a relationship before they’ve properly healed from their respective traumas. Transference is a difficult watch, but those who seek veracity in their romantic dramas, or wish to study a cautionary tale for therapeutic purposes, will find the film riveting and perhaps even refreshing. 

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