Edgar Cochran’s review published on Letterboxd:
Aesthetically, the film invades the sight with its versatile tonal shifts of color as the film progresses, neon-lit as if an impending doom was approaching. The cyclical repetition of what seems to be a routine but actually isn't is shot as a geometrically calculated canvas that must be perfetly centered in order to invade and capture every single domestic corner of Jeanne Dielman's address and her meticulously portrayed domestic tasks, including mothering. "She is the cinematic mother of Haneke and Gus Van Sant", our subconscious might scream, as the film progressively stays fixed in an impressionistic contemplation of the routinely ordinary, yet subdued by a striking visual beauty of the static.
We cook with her.
We wait for her.
We become Jeannie Dielman's son as she mothers our appreciation and, unwillingly, increases our tension.
The film is a beautiful paradox regarding attention to detail. Every single significant aspect of her everyday life in the very short course of three days is shown to fully detail; nevertheless, we are not shown every single aspect of her life. We have two contrasts here up to now. The film has a long duration which is never felt as long because it covers so little, but in this "littleness", we see everything. We just watch segments, fragments, like the functioning of human memory trying to recall last day or last week. It doesn't matter how meticulously detailed the film pictures the most mundane; details change from day to day and this change is felt in the way she reacts. A mother does not remain the same everyday. A mother is a heroine whose personal growth both as a mother and as a learning human being - orchestrating a huge number of things that sons/daughters cannot appreciate because a) they don't have the maturity yet to understand adulthood matters and b) the mother willingly decides for them not to know about it - is not subdued by the routine that external society might categorically encapsulate her into. Society adds labels.
Akerman, a timeless feminine blessing for celluloid, has been catalogued as feminist, and this film has been referred to as a masterpiece of routine. Let's contradict those statements one by one.
As for her being feminist, that label seems to be immediately applied by the average critic whenever a female filmmaker seems to challenge the established norms, a prefixed thematic and cinematic structure that places women's burdens and impediments in a rebellious fashion. In many ways, 95% of all films are such thing. A movie represents a unique vision. This show escalates to an unprecedented ending which marks a huge release for anything that might have taken her up to that point. What was it? Frustration? Infidelity? Domestic violence? Psycopathic tendencies? Label it as you wish. There are many things left behind the curtain. Analyzing Akerman's body of work, she dissects female psychology up to a point of experimentation but always remaining deeply human, axiomatically committed to her sexual genre and its emotional and physical capabilities. This is not a feminist statement because equality between men and women are out of the question. That is why Daisies (1966) is as far from feminism as Pluto is from Earth.
As for routine, I must reiterate the aforementioned point that any human being is a constantly changing living thing. Akerman does not see puppets in her female alter-egos by any means. This seems to mirror the love and admiration that Akerman had towards her mother's dedication, and this dedication is so universal that any non-Belgian viewer can also empathetically and cathartically relate to how we've been sustained as mothers, and how mothers must execute their heroic tasks. So it's not routine because every day is unique, and if you analyze her closely, starting with the face and how she handles things, the events she seems to be involved in seem to be literally the same, but she reacts different. She makes them differently. What matters is her inner psychology and not the superficiality of the events.
I still remember one anecdote my grandmother told me back when I was a child. Mexico was making a population census (duh) about the occupations of marriages, both wife and husband. After my grandmother was asked the occupation of my now deceased grandfather (an accountant), they said:
-I see. Thank you. So what's your occupation?
-I am a housekeeper.
-We mean what is your REAL occupation?
My grandmother was furious because of two extremely obvious reasons I should not even be bothering to mention, but still, here I am. The first one is that housekeeping was not considered as a real occupation because of the mindlessly neoliberal economic structure that has shaped modern society's mentality. The second one is that housekeeping involves an extraordinary amount of work that keeps the house in order and free from diseases, which happens to be the place in which every single member of her family eat, breathe and sleep in. But Mexico's mentality would not consider this as work. Oh no, a job must increase the profits of the country and produce wealth for society and for the government as taxpayers. Well, housekeeping actually fills those quotas if you really, really think about it.
Could that be a rational explanation for the film's climax? Maybe not rational, maybe not justified from a "morally acceptable" or "utilitarian" point of view, but it is excusable. It is understandable. And there is great foreshadowing throughout expertly delivered, yet subtle physiognomic acting in which we are invited to the life of a woman that cooks, sends the kid to school, is alone in her palace located in Quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles, waits silently on her couch for several minutes, contemplates, thinks, acts, reacts, transforms the table where everybody eats into a table for homework and is ultimately desperate.
Beyond the pervasively feminine touch of Akerman's psychoanalytical approach with a conclusion that disrupts the logic of the tone set throughout but does not disrupt human logic at all, Akerman invites us to her house for three hours that, through the magic of editing, become three days, and these three hours feel like 1.75. The camera penetrates the soul of the character as we, getting familiar with every corner of the house like somebody receiving us in a visit, contemplate all possible corners of the house and of her personality. We are the guests and Akerman the host. It is a very welcome and warm invite which, unfortunately, gets out of hand because of a socioeconomic structure put upside down, where the image of woman has been, for too many decades, encapsulated in the tasks of housekeeping. This maybe resonated more true during the 50s, 60s and 70s, but not all corners of the world have feministically progressed in this matter.