Eight years on from his Oscar-nominated Maria Full Of Grace, Joshua Marston returns with this low-key drama. Unlike its predecessor in that it doesn't reach the same levels of tension, but The Forgiveness Of Blood is another peek into a unknown world.
Nik (Halilaj) is your typical teenage boy: when he's not exchanging blows with sister Rudina (Lacej), he's trying to woo classmate Bardha (Hasaj). He's forced to grow up quickly when his father and his uncle kill a neighbour over a long simmering land feud; the uncle is imprisoned but his father, Mark (Abazi), escapes into the hills claiming self-defence. Until he's apprehended, the family is forced to stay indoors in respect of the dead but also not to incur a blood debt, which in line with ancient law would allow the neighbours to take the life of the accused's family.
With the males in this patriarchal society side-lined, women and children come into their own. Nik's mother takes to working in a factory while Rudina assumes the responsibility of delivering bread but shows a shrewd business brain when she buys cigarettes in bulk to sell on her route. Children assuming the responsibility vacated by the 'adults' is the theme and Nik struggles with this the most: with all this happening around him, he's more concerned with texting Bardha, making makeshift weights and playing computer games.
Even though Forgiveness Of Blood is seen through Nik's eyes, Marston never allows the drama to be one-sided. Nik's father is selfish and when it is suggested that he give himself up for his family's safety, he shouts: 'You'd trade your father away?' When Nik presents himself to the neighbours to end the feud it's the first time he gets to see how much his father's actions have impacted on them. Interesting too is that Marston keeps the decision making off screen. The idea of a mediator is dismissed until Rudina is threatened but the next scene a mediator is at their front door; Nik's younger brother is forbidden to attend school but after an increasingly itchy Nik turns his rifle on him, the next scene has Nik packing his brother off to school.
It's always interesting but never as engaging as it might have been. With the main character housebound, Marston does his best to cook up a story but the plot can drag