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 Finally I caught up with this magnificent piece of film making: A family in Tbilisi, Georgia, is confronted with the death of the brother / son who lived and worked in Paris. Marina, Otar’s sister, gets the news of Otar’s death and decides to hide the news from mother Eka, as Eka’s health seems to be dwindling. Eka is the certainly loving, but at the same time cruel matriarch of the household, never hiding her favouritism for her son Otar, with his occasional calls or letters bringing the house to a standstill immediately. She is running the family with unpleasantly conservative hand and carrying plenty of unpleasant notions about society and politics. Still there is a profound love between all family members, also from Marina’s daughter Ada, a young and modern girl trapped in this conservative family setting – sometimes hating it, sometimes being a very natural part of it. Things develop as they have to: Eka decides to visit Otar in Paris, and the daughter and granddaughter join her on the trip without really knowing when and how to break the sad news to the old woman.

The film lives off the actors’ skill to depict the normal tensions of a family that lives in a society that is changing more quickly than others. Not only is Georgia subject to all kinds of turmoil and change, but the very family has a strong orientation to the West and to France in particular, brought in by Eka’s love for the language and culture. No surprise, hence, that there is the constant dream to go to Europe and have a better and maybe more interesting live there, first realised by Otar himself, but also ingrained in the lives of Marina and Ada.

How the drama in Paris, the process of finding out the truth about Otar’s whereabouts, plays out is masterfully done, with grandmother Eka running off on her own, making the discovery she needs to make on her own, and having to deal with them on her own. This is not done in a tacky way, but in a way to allow everybody to maintain a solid feeling of honour and pride, and come out as a stronger family despite the lies and tensions that we witnessed before.

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/since_otar_left/

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