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'In Bloom' movie review (Los Angeles)

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Georgia’s official foreign language submission for Oscar, “In Bloom,” didn’t make the final five Academy Awards nominations, but that shouldn’t deter fans of new filmmaking talent. Written and co-directed by Nana Ekvtimishvili and co-director Simon Gross, “In Bloom” is based on Ekvtimishvili’s life experiences growing up in Georgia in the 1990’s.

Acutely dealing with family and friendships between two teen girls growing up in a patriarchal society, the film originally screened in Los Angeles as part of the New Auteurs selection at AFI FEST 2013 to sold out crowds. Returning to Los Angeles and Pasadena, Friday, February 7, “In Bloom” will certainly compete with programming like the Winter Olympics in Sochi and “The Lego Movie.” But for art house film fans, try to find some time to catch these two new directing voices as well as the talented young leads.

[The review below comes courtesy of my earlier write-up: "AFI FEST 2013: ‘In Bloom’ Review," November 12, 2013.]

Tbilisi, Georgia in 1992 – a newly independent country after the fall of the Soviet Union, is also a country in chaos. The opening shots set up this backdrop as young Eka (Lika Babluani) rides a bus with the radio blasting reports of civil unrest, violence and death. Shortly thereafter, Eka joins her best friend, 14-year-old Natia (Mariam Bokeria) in a bread line. Although life is challenging, these two teen girls are exploring and finding their independence, in a male-dominant world.

Circumstances begin to change, though, when Natia’s suitor, Lado gives her as a gift a gun for protection while he’s away in Moscow. At first the girls are intimidated by the pistol, but then find uses for it. But when older suitor Kote “bride-naps” Natia and she accepts his proposal, relationships between Eka, Natia, their dysfunctional families and friends dramatically and violently change.

Babluani and Bokeria are excellent portraying the two young women who are navigating turbulent families and country. Shot by acclaimed cinematographer, Oleg Mutu (“4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days” and “Beyond the Hills”), the film captures the realism of 1990’s Tbilisi as well as the girls’ daily lives.

Outstanding too is the emotional depth of the characterizations of Eka and Natia – credit both the film’s taut script and direction by Ekvtimishvili and Gross. It’s exciting to catch these two New Auteur filmmakers in the early stages of their careers.

“In Bloom” is 98 minutes, Not Rated, and opens Friday, February 7 at the Laemmle Music Hall in Beverly Hills and Laemmle’s Playhouse 7 in Pasadena.

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