in bloomWhen it comes to world cinema, one of the great perks is being given an insight into a society we generally know little about, consigned to brief news bulletins to gain an understanding of the hardships taking place. This proves to be one of the key selling points to Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Groß’s poignant drama In Bloom, as we’re offered a candid look into what is a largely unbeknown Georgian culture, and we leave feeling educated, enlightened, and in this case, completely intrigued.

Set in the early 1990s, with a civil war ongoing, we delve into the life of teenager girls Eka (Lika Babluani) and Natia (Mariam Bokeria), both finding solace in one another’s company, especially given their turbulent lives at home with their dysfunctional families. School brings little more joy, as they argue with their classmates, and refuse to obey their draconian teachers. Their lives are merely a representation of a broken society in the capital city of Tbisili, and one that appears to be on the brink of imploding – certainly not helped with Natia is handed by a male admirer, with the intention of keeping her safe.

In Bloom is a bleak affair, as the vast majority of characters are generally quite nasty to one another, particularly the school children, as we explore a damaged youth, feeling the effects of being over-exposed to conflict, causing much vitriol amongst them. While there is some heart to this – displayed in the friendship between Eka and Natia, ultimately the tone is rather unforgiving. The gun the girls possess is representative of this volatility that exists, adding a tense and suspenseful element to proceedings, particularly as it’s in the hands of those so young. Though having to be incredibly mature to get by, they remain inherently naive, and with so much angst and disdain portrayed, simply knowing the gun exists is unsettling to say the least.

This powerful and compelling drama is not only well made but remarkably well acted too. Featuring a really talented group of young performers, they play melodrama with such subtlety, with a series of naturalistic performances right across the board. The director allows them this freedom to perform, as the camera merely lingers, with a series of lengthy, unedited shots. Ekvtimishvili and Groß are evidently not afraid to explore silence and you feel that every moment is precious in regards to telling this tale. That’s not to say there aren’t big, emotionally driven sequences, but they’re handled with such delicacy, and it’s a real credit to the directors, as big shouting matches between characters can often appear to be so cheap and drama school. This just goes to show that overtly bleak theatricalities on screen can be so profound when in the right hands – you only need to look as far as Asghar Farhadi to further that point.

The girls are not phased by what is going on around them, as two brilliantly crafted, strong female leads – something we so often see in European cinema. This merely sets the precedence for a highly accomplished piece of filmmaking. Given the critical acclaim, and the fact this has been rewarded with a wide release across the world – you just hope more gems are to be found in countries like Georgia, as not only is this a nation with stories to share, but one that has filmmakers more than gifted enough to tell them.