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The one joy in the lives of a mother and daughter comes from the regular letters sent to them from Paris from the family's adored son, Otar. When the daughter finds out that Otar has died suddenly, she tries to conceal the truth from her mother, changing the course of their lives forever. Written by
Sujit R. Varma
Unusual film, in that there is no title role as such, and we never do get to meet Otar. We are transported into the everyday lives of three generations of women - grandmother Eka, her daughter Marina, and granddaughter Ada - in their home in what is the genteel decay of Tblisi in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. The scene is set with a clever portrayal of relationships between the three, with the typical small household tensions that normally arise.
But the common favourite in this extended family group is Eka's son, Otar, who is in Paris, making his own way in the world, and regularly contacting those at home by phone and letter. Eka, especially, lives for these contacts from her Otar, so when word reaches the other two that he has been killed in an industrial accident, Marina decides to conceal the fact from her mother and play the lie that he is still alive. Two influencing factors come through regarding that choice of action - firstly, Marina is unsure her mother would survive the shock of hearing of Otar's death, but secondly, we suspect Marina herself is unable to summon the courage to pass on the news. Ada unwillingly agrees to all of this at first, but it becomes an increasing burden on both of them as you would expect. Otar's workmate, Niko, turns up at the Tblisi residence with a suitcase of his personal effects, but Ada manages to convey to him the existence of the lie they are playing before he can reveal Otar's demise in the grandmother's presence. Old Eka is no fool though, and you get the impression she knows all is not as it should be. In a rash moment, she decides to take a trip to France to see her Otar, sells the few family heirlooms of value, and purchases three tickets for them all to travel to Paris. The viewer knows that eventually she will become aware that Otar is dead, but the manner of this, and her reaction towards her daughter and granddaughter, are quite unpredictable and beautiful. It is from here on that she proves to be the tower of strength for the other two. Another nice twist awaits us at the film's conclusion. This is a film full of poignant moments and the stuff of life, and coupled with superb acting by the three attractive women one can only endorse its 2003 Grand Prize at Cannes.
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