This independent film follows a couple (Nica and Alex) who have been recently engaged. They seem to be extremely happy and know each other very well. They’re best friends as well as lovers. Soul mates, if you will. They decide to go on a backpacking trip in the Caucasus mountains. In a nearby village, they meet a local who offers to be their guide. The 3 set off on a beautifully scenic but physically taxing trip. All seems well, but something frightening happens and one of the characters reacts differently then you’d expect. In fact, they didn’t even expect to react that way. This happens about halfway through. The rest of the film shows how just a single moment (lasting just a split second) can be crucial in defining one’s self.
You definitely have to like a certain type of movie to like this movie. It’s one of those slowly paced films that doesn’t have much dialogue, and not much happens during the many long takes. Just people doing normal things, like walking. But I do tend to like these movies if done right. And this one is done quite well.
It’s beautifully shot. The landscapes are captured with gorgeous splendor. The story, though very minimal, was very engaging for me, because I never knew what was going to happen. The film grabs you right away as Nica is jumping up and down in a shower (with no running water), wet and completely naked. It’s a jarring way to start the film, as she appears very distressed. It take the viewer a couple of moments to realize what’s happening. Then Alex comes to the rescue with some warm water to wash the soap and shampoo off her. I love movies that start off like this, cause it grabs your attention.
The first half of the film has several natural scenes of just the couple being a couple, and they are very genuine. They appear to the happiest couple in the world. And then that incident happens. It literally happens in a few seconds, but man, does it change the nature of the film. It was engrossing to see how it affected the couple, and the guide that was with them on their journey. How is this going to change them? This really got to me. It made me ask myself questions. How would I react to this situation? Does one really know oneself. The answer is…. maybe not. It’s really scary. I’d like to think I would do the right thing in a situation like that, but after watching this movie, I honestly don’t know how I would act instinctly. In fact, I don’t think anyone could no how they would react instinctly. It’s this aspect that really gives the film a lasting effect.
All 3 actors are fantastic in this. Gael Garcia Barnel and Hani Furstenberg give riveting performances. Through the first half they are just this sweet couple, but you really see the pain that they go through (just in their expressions) when the film reaches the second half. The guide, played by Bidzina Gujabidze, is not an actor. But I didn’t know this until I interviewed the director (which will be forthcoming in a few days). He is pretty quiet through most of it, but he ends up giving a quite emotional performance, especially in the film’s final moments.
This movie isn’t going to be for everyone. There are scenes when minutes go by and nothing happens. It gets slightly pretentious at times, but I admired that in way. This is a bold film. Julia Loktev has created a beautiful, haunting and ultimately disturbing film that poses difficult questions for the viewer to answer. This is a movie that you see with a group of people and talk amongst each other afterwards. I saw this over a month ago, and it still resonates with me. I honestly don’t know if I could sit through it again, because it really got to me emotionally. But I am glad I saw it. If you like challenging films that make you think, definitely give this one a try. ★★★ (out of ★★★★)
– Not rated but contains full frontal nudity and some language.
– Running time: 1hr 53min.