A story about honour, brotherhood, peace, reinforces the sneaking suspicion that human beings are generally decent, and has the manners to come in under ninety minutes?
You’ll do worse than spend an evening watching 2015 Foreign Language Oscar nominee Tangerines, a touching Hell In The Pacific/Enemy Mine-esque drama.
The elderly Ivo (Ulfsak) is one of a small number of Estonians left in a deserted Georgian village, his family and neighbours having left for home when war broke out between Georgia and Abkhazian rebels in the nineties. He busies himself making boxes for tangerines, which friend Margus (Nuganen) plucks from the neighbouring trees with an aim of getting one last shipment together before selling it on and joining their families back in Estonia.
However, Chechen soldiers turn up and engage a roaming Georgian patrol. Chechen mercenary Ahmed (Nakashidze) and Georgian Niko (Mekshi) are injured and nursed back to health by Ivo, who demands that the two enemies conduct themselves while under his roof. The two swear to keep the peace and find they have some things in common…
Okay, so the can’t-we-all-just-get-along theme is very twee but there’s more going on below the surface in this effective drama. It’s slow to reveal what it’s really up to but once it becomes clear the dynamic in the house is given further levels of depth. Ivo initially is like a patient father, scolding two naughty boys, but with his white hair and beard, and his kind, understanding nature, it becomes clear he is God’s stand in here and the soldiers are man’s inhumanity to man. Ivo refuses to forsake this charges by declining Margus’ offer to house one of the soldiers and, later, resists temptation to up sticks and leave (the real reason he wants to stick around is revealed at the climax). At one point Ahmed calls him “our saviour.”
That and having Ivo work as a carpenter is a touch unsubtle and Tangerines might get too nice for its own good in the third act, but writer-director Zaza Urushhadze never overcooks things and it’s hard to begrudge hope and positivity in the face of despair and genocide.