There’s a lot to like about In Bloom, Georgia’s submission for Best Foreign Language Film in last year’s Academy Awards. The storyline pairs the small-scale coming of age story of two girls, Eka (Lika Babluani) and Natia (Mariam Bokeria), with a nuanced interrogation of power in the midst of Georgia’s 1992 civil war. Directors Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Gross use a realist approach to create an authentic feel, their camera bobbing alongside their young heroines or jostling with them as they queue for bread. The desaturated palette – faded browns, soft greens, dull turquoises, almost no reds or yellows – subtly undercuts the title, evoking wilting flowers.
It’s a technically accomplished, thoughtful work, yet I felt kept at a distance throughout. In part this is explained by my lack of familiarity with Georgia’s recent history. For example, I suspect the way that a gun changed hands over the course of the film had allegorical resonance. I also think that the kind of traits that I typically praise in films, like an absence of explicit exposition or an inclusive approach to its characters, paradoxically worked to exclude me from relating to its characters; more testament to my experience than the film’s quality, however.