Since Otar Left

Since Otar Left


Reviewed by: David Haviland

A family drama about three Georgian women doesn't sound like the most tempting prospect, but Since Otar Left is a surprising treat.

The three women are the elderly Eka, her daughter Marina and Marina's daughter Ada. This is a family without men and the film explores the impact of this, as Marina and Ada pursue half-hearted relationships and Eka waits for letters from her son, Otar, who lives in Paris.

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When the news arrives that he has been killed in an accident, Marina and Ada can't bring themselves to tell Eka, so they begin an elaborate deception, writing letters on his behalf and enclosing money that they can't afford. Their plan works, until Eka decides to visit Otar in Paris.

The film opens slowly, gradually revealing the significance of Otar and the relationships between the women. Like in real families, these are characterised both by tenderness and resentment, such as one beautiful scene where Marina washes her mother's hair while they grumble at each other.

The tensions are mainly between mother and daughter, as Marina feels overlooked in favour of Otar, and Eka feels Marina sets Ada a bad example. At one point Eka berates her, "You don't show your daughter enough love." Marina replies, "Neither do you."

As with Goodbye Lenin, there is a political dimension to this story, as the young try to protect the old from the truths of a post-Communist world. Eka provocatively complains that Georgia was better in Stalin's day, while Ada just wants to leave. Marina is caught in the middle and the film subtly conveys her frustration at her generation's failure, as the electricity fails, or the shower packs up.

The film is full of fine performances, but 90-year-old Esther Gorintin, as Eka, is quite outstanding. Gorintin made her acting debut at 85, in Emmanuel Finkiel's Voyages. This is her fifth feature in five years.

If it were only half as good, Since Otar Left would still be worth watching for her performance alone.

Reviewed on: 05 Jun 2004
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Three Georgian women deal with the absence of Otar, the only man in the family.
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Director: Julie Bertuccelli

Writer: Julie Bertuccelli, Bernard Renucci, Roger Bohbot

Starring: Esther Gorintin, Nino Khomassouridze, Dinara Droukarova, Temour Kalandadze, Roussoudan Bolkvadze

Year: 2003

Runtime: 103 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: France/Belgium


EIFF 2003

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If you like this, try:

Goodbye Lenin!
Vodka Lemon