Based on the novel by Icelandic writer Auður Jónsdóttir, The Deposit is an introspective debut for director Ásthildur Kjartansdóttir. The film explores the complex and ever-relevant topic of immigration in a way that is unafraid to also highlight the inner monstrosity of its central character. Something which is compounded by the strength of its cast.
The film follows Gisella (Elma Lísa Gunnarsdóttir), a journalist who quits her job in order to write more thoughtful pieces. In order to do so (and to lessen her rising levels of debt) she offers two immigrants – Colombian Maria (Raffaella Sigurdardottir) and Ugandan Adeba (Enid Mbabazi) – a place to stay. What ensues is a power struggle between the three women as The Deposit examines the line between charity and exploitation, as well as the notion of a white saviour complex.
Gisella, despite her niceties and seemingly charitable acts, is only ever driven by self-interest and this seeps into relationships with both her friends and her tenants. Gunnarsdóttir gives a good turn in this role, and she successfully conveys the character’s internalised mistrust-come-racism, and the pathological need for control which ultimately causes her downfall. This aspect is only aided by the cinematography, which at times flits towards Gisella’s perspective, further exerting her control over the narrative.
At the same time, The Deposit successfully captures the cultural clash between the women, and the moral grey area which comes with it – though at times this desire for neutrality does more harm to the film than good. This is never more evident than with Adeba’s daughter, Luna which forms the primary conflict of the film.
Kjartansdóttir attempts to take a detached and neutral view towards the characters’ different approaches towards parenting, and leaves it to the audience to foster their own opinions on the matter. Unfortunately, despite Mbabazi’s strong performance as Adeba, the character comes across somewhat shallow and one dimensional. The same extends to Gisella for, despite certain complexities, there are some aspects which appear needlessly antagonistic and her change in character is jarringly sudden.
Moreover, the decision to mainly focus on the power struggle between Gisella and Adeba means that Maria is left in the cold for much of the film. This is a shame as allusions to a deeper narrative for the character are evident throughout, and it feels as though more could be done with her character with slightly more time.
Ultimately, The Deposit is a solid debut from a promising filmmaker with a great deal of promise, and cast of which give compelling performances throughout. Sadly it falls somewhat short and given a bit more time, it could become something truly powerful.
UK Premiere screenings at Edinburgh Odeon Sat 22 and Vue Omni Centre Sun 30 Jun 2019