Reviewed by GREG KING
Directors: Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Gross
Stars: Lika Babluani, Mariam Bokenia, Data Zakareishvili, Zurab Gogaladze.
Life in Tbilisi, in Georgia Russia in 1992, was hard, and it seemed like a fairly grim place to live. The country had just achieved its independence as the former Soviet Union splintered, but as the country struggled to find its feet, poverty and unemployment was everywhere, there were breadlines and often power failures. And even families were fractured with bitter conflicts and heated arguments.
In Bloom is a grim and rather bleak coming-of-age film that captures that painful transition from adolescence into womanhood, but here the usual drama is played out against the background of Georgia’s emergence as an independent country. The film centres on two fourteen year old girls, best friends, who grow up in the newly independent country as it struggles with its past and its sense of identity. The contrast between the two girls is nicely drawn. Eka (Lika Babluani) is more introverted and bookish than Natia (Mariam Bokenia).
Eka’s estranged father is serving time in prison for murdering a man. Natia’s father is a volatile and abusive alcoholic who terrorises his family. Natia attracts that attention of two local lads – the handsome and soft spoken Lado (Data Zakareishvili) and the uneducated local thug Kote (Zurab Gogaladze). This is still a fairly patriarchal and misogynistic society, and Natia is forced into marriage with Kote, and becomes a virtual prisoner. It will only end in tears and tragedy.
In Bloom is the second feature film from writers and directors Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Gross (who both collaborated on the drama Fata Morgana). There is a semi-autobiographical element to the film as the Georgian born Ekvtimishvili has drawn upon her own experiences of growing up in Georgia to shape this film. But there is an episodic structure to the film which occasionally gives it a disjointed feel. Ekvtimishvili and Gross have an oblique approach to the narrative and not everything is spelled out. The rather abrupt ending will have audiences discussing what happens next in the lives of these two girls. There is a palpable sense of anxiety about the future, not only of Georgia but of the two girls as they face numerous tense and emotionally draining situations while civil war rages in a neighbouring state.
Both Babluani and Bokenia are newcomers, but they deliver natural and unforced performances.
The film explores some universal themes of female oppression, friendship, identity, adolescence, love and social unrest. The filmmakers work in close up for much of the time giving the material a more claustrophobic and oppressive feel, while cinematographer Oleg Mutu captures the rather bleak environment and gives the film a rather cold and austere surface.