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Since Otar Left | Review

Mail Fraud: Fine performances and delicate, subtle text makes for one of the year’s most rewarding experiences.

She must have had some kind of profound filmmaking experience being an Assistant Director for two of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s famed Three Colors trilogy, because director Julie Bertucelli delivers the type of female-driven complex drama that is scarcely witnessed in a first time effort.

Such as in Distant, this explores the social and economic drought of a country that seems to have not had much success in embracing capitalism. This takes place among the hardships and rubble landscape of the former Soviet republic Georgia where telephone conversations are abruptly cut-off and where an extra source of revenue is obligatory. Foreign drama Since Otar Left features a three-generational family of females trying to hold themselves together. ‘Hope’ is the established theme of the film, the one holding this desire the highest happens to be the charm of the picture — Esther Gorintin’s (Carnages) performance as the 90-year-old mother/grandmother Eka reminds of the determined hero of The Triplets of Belleville. The hunched-back, stubborn, crossed eyed and hard-of-hearing descendant of France forgets about the economical despair and her ailing health with the encouraging news from the voice and news from her struggling son in Paris. Working with a Life is Beautiful narrative device where a loved one tries to make believe a situation in order to protect the person they love the most, this film uses letters via air-post as a loving set of lies. Of course the letters change ever-so slightly, they contain more information than usual, — an oddity which shows that the grandmother isn’t as senile as what one might expect.

Bertucelli’s pacing is deliberately slow; it forecasts the slowed-down movement of the film’s protagonist and supports the delicately woven drama and tension between the three female perspectives. From the simple shots of the wishing trees where residents leave tied ribbons on the branches, to the comedic moments Gorintin’s character playing hooky and splurging on a couple of cigarettes thanks to the money she keeps in her bra or with the dramatic flashes that sees the youngest twenty-something daughter angered by the cloud of secrecy –- this film contains beautiful, mini-moments of poetic jubilation. Its careful treatment of each sequence kind of makes the viewer wish that the awful truth can somehow spare the film from a tragic ending. Though the story is aimed towards a predictable forecast, it is the cherishedly placed inside a silent and slight emotional ending that supports the knowledge and the knowing-wink of the 90 year-old. In contrast to the rundown apartments and rundown economy of the city of Tbilisi, there is full of color in this film mostly derived from the comedic and dramatic undertones and fine performances. Finally for once, a narration that sees someone reading or writing a letter doesn’t feel awkwardly included—instead it reveals more than just the words but the texts of character emotions.

With Since Otar Left, Bertucelli manages to bring about a full palette of emotions, from the bittersweet, to the sad and to the charmingly uplifting and is compounded by film’s final and silent rest stop which is perhaps the year’s best film ending.

Viewed in original Georgian and French language with English subtitles.

Rating 4 stars

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist and critic at (founded in 2000). Eric is a regular at Sundance, Cannes and TIFF. He has a BFA in Film Studies at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013 he served as a Narrative Competition Jury Member at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson's This Teacher (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022 he served as a New Flesh Comp for Best First Feature at the 2022 Fantasia Intl. Film Festival. Current top films for 2022 include Tár (Todd Field), All That Breathes (Shaunak Sen), Aftersun (Charlotte Wells).

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