Tuesday, April 25, 2017
16 year old mark is growing up in a Russian expat community in Toronto. He goes along as any teenager would. When his uncle enters an arranged marriage with a woman from Moscow she bring her 14 year old daughter Natasha with her. Mark is given the task of showing Natasha around and a bond quickly forms between them. However Natasha has secrets in her past that could destroy their relationship.
Based on a book of short stories by director David Bezmozgis NATASHA is a rambling coming of age film that perhaps is a bit too dour for it's own good. A film with lots of silences and secrets the film has the feel of an overly earnest short story brought to the big screen. While not a bad film it is awfully mannered and very much the sort of thing that wants to be about something even if it means that things don't fully connect to the audience.
While on some level the dual English Russian language may make the film realistic there is an uncertainty in some of the performances depending upon which language they are speaking in.
The real problem with the film is that writer director Bezmozgis is focused too much on the thrust of the tale and not on the details. Yes he has the cast switching between English and Russian as people would in real life but he forgets to give anyone anything that isn't meaningful to say. Every utterance plays into the plot somehow.
Worse in moving the characters around he has wiped out all sense of details of real life. We do not see anything that anyone does that gives s a sense of these people are real people. In a short story you can talk around the lack of detail but here every set is spartan, There are no tell tale signs of a life off screen. Everyone only exists for their single moments.
I never connected. Worse I never cared.
While technically not a bad film it never engages enough to care about the characters and what happens to them. Personally I would rather read the stories the film is based on since I'm guessing it will be more alive than this film.
NATASHA opens in Theaters 4/28