Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

"Lazarov lets his tale unfold gradually like a gentle thaw" | Photo: Courtesy of Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival

Writer/director Milko Lazarov proves just how effective simplicity can be with this patient tale of old love and forgiveness set against the stunning backdrop of Russia's republic of Yakutia, in the far north-east of the country. The wide open expanses of blue sky and frozen land - also seen in last year's The Lord Eagle - are gloriously captured by cinematographer Kaloyan Bozhilov, whether characters are taking centre stage or captured as little more than a dark dot on the landscape.

In the middle of this beautiful but barren nowhere, live elderly couple Nanook (Mikhail Aprosimov) and Sedna (Feodosia Ivanova) , continuing the long-held traditions of their forebears even though the reindeer that were once an integral part of their life are seldom seen any more. The reindeer are symbolic of a more general malaise, with spring coming earlier each year and the next generation already migrated away from life in the yurt in search of better fortunes. Among those who have flown south is their daughter Ága (Galina Tikhonova), who is working in a diamond mine in what might as well be the opposite end of the Earth.

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Lazarov lets his tale unfold gradually like a gentle thaw, showing how Nanook is becoming forgetful, while Sedna holds a health secret of her own and how she and then he yearn to reconnect with Ága, who has become estranged. The simplicity of the story allows for incidental moments to become all the more marked, from humorous exchanges between the couple to comfy storytelling within the animal skin snugness of the yurt and excellent use of diagetic music via a small wireless - they would surely never call it a radio - that provides additional entertainment. Parallels also abound, from the darkness of a fishing hole to a wound to the mine.

Later pleasures will include a surprising road trip in search of resolution but we are hooked in from the start, emotionally tied to this family unit right down to the film's last moments, which avoid obvious sentimental resolution to show that distance doesn't necessarily diminish connection.

Reviewed on: 09 Apr 2019
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As an elderly couple who live in the traditions of their ancestors face the possibility of one of them dying, will the survivor be able to reconnect with their daughter?

Director: Milko Lazarov

Writer: Simeon Ventsislavov, Milko Lazarov

Starring: Mikhail Aprosimov, Feodosia Ivanova, Galina Tikhonova, Sergey Egorov, Afanasiy Kylaev

Year: 2018

Runtime: 96 minutes

Country: Bulgaria, Germany, France

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If you like this, try:

The Eagle Huntress
The Lord Eagle