Starring: Lika Babluani, Mariam Bokeria, Zurab Gogaladze
Genre: Drama/ World Cinema
In Tiblisi, capital of Georgia, in 1992 when the country is at civil war, two 14 year old friends Eka (Lika Babluani) and Natia (Mariam Bokeria) experience the poverty and social oppression of the struggling society. Though only 14 years old and still at school, the oppressive nature of society (particular against young women) forces them to mature and grow up far faster than they could have ever imagined.
For me one of the great things about watching films from other countries of which I know relatively little about, and I know I have said this before, is that they can be an education as well as an engaging story. In Bloom in my view certainly fits into both of these as it provides a unique insight into Georgian culture in the early 90s but also is a compelling coming-of-age story that examines the universal themes of love, loyalty and revenge in a culturally specific context.
Apparently based on the personal experiences of writer and co-director Nana Ekvtimishvili, In Bloom depicts the oppressive Georgian society with true authenticity, and despite the coming of age character arc of the two main characters the narrative skilfully avoids any obvious clichés or lazy narrative choices that would threaten to undermine everything. Working as both fascinating allegory and engaging personal story, In Bloom is made with a raw authenticity that can only be found in world cinema.
Though I am sure there was every intention of making the dialogue naturalistic, admittedly the subtitled dialogue sounds quite clunky at times, but I doubt this is the fault of those making it; as that is more likely down to a complex translation of the original dialogue. However it thankfully does not hamper the emotional involvement of the story or its protagonists.
A testament to the fact Ekvtimishvili knows how to tell a great story is the film’s unforgettable and heart breaking final third; avoiding any lazy clichés of more mainstream films, it tackles some very powerful themes but still deals with them in way that keeps the film grounded in reality and is all the more compelling and rewarding for it.
In the leading roles Lika Babluani and Mariam Bokeria (both non-professional actresses) give incredible and suitably naturalistic performances as the two teenagers trying to make sense of the society around them and the demands it puts on them. Likewise the film is quite cinematic but instead of detracting from the authenticity, only adds to it with long takes that capture perfectly the claustrophobia of the society our characters live in. When in an urban setting the camera is very close to the characters, but when in an open space the shots are far wider, which is done with enough subtlety to never feel overly contrived and make In Bloom both a great story but also an extremely well made film.
Written with integrity and an unparalleled authentic knowledge of its subject matter; In Bloom is both an engaging coming of age drama and fascinating insight into a completely different culture.