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such a nasty woman | by maryann johanson

Tangerines movie review: caught in the crossfire

by MaryAnn Johanson

Tangerines green light

Slaps an honest emotional sincerity and a dry, almost humorous pragmatism in the face of macho posturing and identity tribalism.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

It’s an Enemy Mine sort of scenario in Georgian filmmaker Zaza Urushadze’s Tangerines — Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language film — except it’s more kind of Enemy Theirs. Set during the Georgian civil war of the early 1990s, just after the breakup of the Soviet Union, this is the tale of elderly Ivo (the very Christopher Lee-esque Lembit Ulfsak) and his middle-aged neighbor Margus (Elmo Nüganen), ethnic Estonians who’ve stayed behind, while all their friends and family have fled back to Estonia, in order to bring in Margus’s crop of tangerines. One evening a firefight almost on their doorsteps in their rural mountain village leaves them with a bunch of dead guys to bury, plus one wounded Muslim Chechen mercenary, Ahmed (Giorgi Nakashidze), and one wounded Christian Georgian separatist, Niko (Mikheil Meskhi), now both under Ivo’s roof while they recover. As long as Ivo can keep them from killing each other as soon as they can walk again, that is. The drama is slow to kick in, but once it does, the film’s honest emotional sincerity in the face of macho posturing and identity tribalism won me over to the point where I was willing to discard my cynicism about Ahmed and Niko’s prospects for overcoming their differences to at least avoid murder, if not actually become friends. Ivo’s pragmatism, verging on the dryly humorous and involving an emphatic command that no blood be shed in his house, with lots of tea drinking to seal the uneasy truce, brings a gentle sort of contrast to the soldiers’ rage: there is more than one kind of masculine power, and the better kind does not jump to violence as a first recourse. I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen an Estonian film before — or a Georgian one, for that matter; this is a joint production — and I look forward to more.

See also my #WhereAreTheWomen rating of Tangerines for its representation of girls and women.

green light 4 stars

Tangerines (2015)
US/Canada release date: Apr 17 2015 | UK release date: Sep 18 2015

MPAA: not rated
BBFC: rated 15 (very strong language, strong violence)

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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  • MrBethesda

    I saw the film at the Estonian embassy in Washington—very impressive. See it if you get the chance.

  • The Estonian ambassador the UK was at my screening. :-) He introduced the film.

  • JJ

    neat review, keep it up. also, check out “Klass”, an in-depth take on bullying and peer pressure in modern-day Estonia, and “Corn Island” – another miniature masterpiece from Georgia (released the same year as “Tangerines”).

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