Since Otar Left

Since you've been gone, I'm outta my head, can't take it.

Released in 2003, certified UK-15. Reviewed on 29 Jun 2004 by Scott Morris
Since Otar Left image

In a cinema landscape still largely dominated by the blockbuster releases, it's as good a time as any to fling out a French-Georgian intergenerational relationship drama. Clearly of a fairly niche appeal, nonetheless it's quite affecting in it's own little way. Set in Georgia, a country still so ravaged by the economic troubles of the collapse of the Soviet Empire that resembles a scaled up version of my flat, a family hits a patch of trouble after the titular Otar not only leaves Georgia but this mortal coil.

Fearing that the elderly but in no way infirm matriarch Eka (Esther Gorintin) could not cope with the stress of finding out that her beloved son has died, Otar's sister Marina (Nino Khomasuridze) and her daughter Ada (Dinara Drukarova) concoct a scheme to cover up this event, Ada taking up a career in forgery to spin out Otar's fictitious life in Paris through a series of letters. Aficionados of oddball European yarns may be drawing parallels with Good bye, Lenin!, although the fantasy involved here is a shade more manageable yet far more tragic.

The actual plot of Since Otar Left is as close to irrelevant to the actual feel of the film as can be imagined. While it's possible to read far more into many movies than even their creators intended, director Julie Bertucelli does all but beat you round the head with differing generations views on the Soviet ideologies that Stalin stained the world with. In a good way, of course.

Since Otar Left image

While Since Otar Left is certainly strong on intergenerational strife, with all sorts of family issues arising from living in cramped conditions in troubled times, all the while maintaining a facade of normality despite the crumbling family situation. Any similarity with the latter stages of communism's lifespan is no doubt entirely coincidental. Still, much as this movie concerns itself with sociopolitical matters on a global level it's just as home discussing them on a macroscopic basis.

With strong performances from the trio of lead actresses in both French and Russian, there's as much to appreciate in terms of character depth and warmth as there is in the politicking. Eka, Marina and Ada feel like people with genuine depth and it's possible to grow rather attached and involved with their struggles on a personal basis that's impressive given the short 106 minutes that you're given to know them.

While unavoidably bleak in places given the bleak situation Georgia finds itself in these days and the rather bleak basis for the story, the fact that it finds itself a fairly uplifting ending comes as something of a surprise and something of a celebration of humanity's oft misplaced optimism. All in a rather nifty little character drama, and if there's only one Franco-Russian sociopolitical generation gap film you see all year you could do far worse than Since Otar Left, assuming another of said genre ever reaches these shores.

Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 4/5 TippyMarks.

Julie Bertucelli
Cast list:
Esther Gorintin (Eka)
Nino Khomasuridze (Marina)
Dinara Drukarova (Ada)
Temur Kalandadze (Tengiz)
Rusudan Bolqvadze (Rusiko)
Sasha Sarishvili (Alexi)
Duta Skhirtladze (Niko)