In the Romanian village of Valea Plopului exists 26 churches, all of them builded in 15 years by a single priest. He build also a camp for motherless child and for victims of human trafficking, a church for the students, one for retired people, and one for aborted babies. "Where it was need of a church, I builded one" - say priest Nicolae Tanase.
A heartbroken father is faced with the painful choice between ruining his kindhearted employer and passing something of his heritage along to his estranged daughters
TEN YEARS AGO
Faced with hospital bills incurred by desperate attempts to save his dying wife, Antonio sold
priceless family heirlooms to the antique dealer he works for. These finely-woven wedding mantas had been handed down by the women of his Bolivian family for 300 years.
Ashamed of his inability to save his wife or support his daughters, and rejected by his deceased wife’s family, Antonio became estranged from his daughters Erica, Anna, and Nina.
ONE YEAR AGO
Hearing about Nina’s upcoming wedding, and knowing that the ancient mantas had not yet been resold by his employer, Antonio snuck the heirlooms out of the warehouse and, unable to face his daughters in person, left them with his late wife’s sister Nancy, with whom his daughters had lived.
His employer has finally sold the mantas for a very high price, only to discover them missing – and
a heartbroken Antonio is faced with the painful choice between harming his kindhearted employer and passing something of his heritage on to his daughters.
Heirlooms tells the story of a key moment in the life of a man tortured not just by the everyday cruelties of the world, but by the self-knowledge of his own inability to deal with them. While the tragedy of his wife's death was inflicted on him and his family from the outside, Antonio's subsequent feelings of inadequacy, leading to estrangement from his motherless daughters, form an even greater tragedy that sends him spiraling ever deeper into guilt and despair.
As we all do to some extent, Antonio deludes himself with plans for his own redemption that bring him no closer to it. His long term plan of renovating a house to present to his daughters when he re-enters their lives only serves to keep him away from them that much longer. His removal of the ancient mantas from the warehouse - justified by the thought that they hadn't sold so far, and provoked by the weight of 300 years of their importance to his family - only leads to trouble for someone else who's like family to him. And the fumbled presentation of these family heirlooms, not directly to the daughters he can't face but to his already-disapproving former sister-in-law, can't help but take away from the chance that they'd be received with any interest in him or his heritage.
But again, like most of us to some extent, even though he can't control his destructive behaviors, Antonio is a decent person at heart, trying (though misguidedly) to do the decent thing. As the film begins, Antonio finds himself in the situation we all dread most: one where there's no more wiggle room, and our little schemes have left us in the situation where someone must be hurt by our behavior - and our only choice is which one that will be.
In the end, Antonio makes a choice, which is perhaps the best choice he's made in a long time. The ending is not happy, and Antonio's problems are not solved... but they are acknowledged, in a new and fuller way, which shows just a smidgeon of progress, and perhaps an even smaller smidgeon of hope. Antonio's final choice is a step towards honesty, towards self-respect; away from trying to be something he's not and towards allowing his descendents to take pride in his ancestors.
We all struggle, often daily, with our own identities in the face of a complex and ever-changing world, and with our often unwitting capability to bring light or darkness into the lives of those around us. Hopefully, "Heirlooms" will lead us all to think, if even for just a few moments, about our own self-deceptions and destructive behaviors, and about some steps we can take to begin cleansing ourselves of them.