PAUSE – the debut feature from Cypriot director Tonia Mishiali and Reel Women approved – is the telling of a story that everyone knows, but which is rarely represented with this much depth: the day-to-day suffering of being trapped in an unhappy marriage.
As she slowly enters menopause, Elpida comes to terms with just how unhappy she is with her husband, especially after being introduced to a young and robust construction painter. While her husband does not seem to have fully crossed the line into being abusive, he is unquestionably controlling and neglectful. As the tensions between herself and her husband grow, Elpida begins having frequent destructive – as well as sexual – fantasies.
Elpida’s husband does the bare minimum to support and look after her. He is reluctant to give her any money, and only ever for groceries. He refuses to give her access to the internet, with Elpida’s only connection to the outside world being her car, which her husband promptly sells. She must cook and clean, prepare and fetch, and never speak up or come home late.
This slow-building rage inside of Elpida manifests as daydreams of standing up to her husband, and eventually of him not being around at all. Alongside her neighbour and only friend, she imagines what life would be like without her husband. If he will soon die from old age or a heart attack, and if she could do anything to speed up the process at all.
These darker moments of the film, specifically when Elpida eyes up the young painter or when she imagines defying her husband, are enjoyable. It is no wonder that PAUSE received the FIPRESCI and ERT awards at the Thessaloniki International Film Festival, the former in particular being a prestigious prize given by the International Federation of Film Critics. PAUSE is most certainly deserving of these awards, and perhaps others, for its impeccable representation of a story that we as an audience often assume and take for granted.