Father-son bonding during journey to Crimea
- Homeward review by PD
The heart of this one by young Ukranian Nariman Aliev, is a father-and-son-bonding tale unfolding against the backdrop of a fraught road trip from Kyiv to Russia-annexed Crimea.
As the film opens, Kyiv college student Alim (an affecting non-pro) and his father Mustafa (the impressive Akhtem Seitablayev), newly arrived from Crimea, are paying a visit to one of the capital’s morgues to claim the shrapnel-pocked body of Alim’s older brother Nazim, one of many Ukrainian soldiers killed in the conflict with Russia. Even though Nazim lived in Kyiv with his Ukrainian Orthodox wife Oleysa, the fierce Mustafa brusquely insists on taking his son’s body back to Crimea for a Muslim burial next to his mother’s grave, and won’t allow Oleysa to travel with them. A complicated backstory of familial estrangement is hinted at (it’s the first time Mustafa and Oleysa have met; Mustafa doesn’t know what Alim is studying; Oleysa talks about Mustafa being dangerous), but is never further elaborated or explained. Regardless of what may have happened in the past, there is definitely a gulf that is greater than generational in the relationship between the street-smart Mustafa and the now-citified Alim. Symbolizing this, they have only one shared language: Crimean Tatar, a Turkic tongue not related to Slavic languages. Like many Crimean Tatars of his generation, Mustafa grew up in Uzbekistan, where his relatives were deported in 1944. He learned Russian in school and Soviet ways of doing business. As Mustafa drives south and west with Alim, we see this style in operation as he tries to get his way with bribes or brute force. Meanwhile, teenager Alim wasn’t even alive during the Soviet period. And he speaks fluent Ukrainian, the tongue in which he converses with everyone else except his father. As Mustafa and Alim encounter and (often less credibly) solve many problems en route to Crimea, a wary mutual respect grows between father and son. But at the same time, it gradually becomes clear that Mustafa’s intense rush to bring Nazim’s body to the homeland is not just about the Muslim tradition to bury the dead as soon as possible.
The film's strongest suit is definitely the impressive cinematography by Anton Fursa. He frames the characters in tight closeups when in Kyiv and in the car, but as they approach Crimea, beautiful yet austere shots of the natural surroundings become more prominent. Particularly unforgettable are the visuals during the climactic scene that depicts Alim literally burdened by the weight of Tatar tradition. Aliev also cleverly eschews a music track, instead making strong use of diegetic sound and sound design.
There's quite a few problems: it's very short on character development and narrative depth, and there's is a decidedly male chauvinist undercurrent - women, whether Olyesa or a mechanic’s granddaughter Masha, being rather-too casually depicted as temptresses who lure Mustafa’s sons into trouble. Although Alim at first seems shocked by his father’s treatment of Oleysa and attempts to stay in touch with her by phone, he later abruptly dismisses her, which leaves a rather bitter taste. Nevertheless, the desire of Aliev to highlight the plight of Crimean Tatars (both historically and currently), and the mixed feelings of love and resentment between father and son — and their pride in their Tatar heritage and homeland — come through loud and clear.
1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.
It's a man's man's world
- Homeward review by TE
A grim Islamic-Ukrainian take on an old Western movie theme. It's all about "a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do", which means that the men do all the important stuff, like fighting and bullying, whilst the women just weep somewhere in the background.
The younger brother, Alim, bonds with his violent, embittered, fundamentalist father during their road trip back to Crimea to bury the older brother's body. Sadly, that bonding process dehumanises Alim and the implication is that he is going to become like his father. The problem is that the director, Nariman Aliev, appears to represent this as a good thing, with lingering shots of the bleak landscape and the forlorn graves that are meant to sum up the family heritage.
One star for the landscape photography and minus four stars for the outdated machismo.
1 out of 2 members found this review helpful.
misleading category for this film!
- Homeward review by SB
Although this is a story of a father and his son, putting 'Homeward' into the genre 'Children and family' is quite misleading. It is a serious tale of an overbearing father dragging his estranged son away from his life as a student in Ukraine, to Crimea where they will bury an older son whose dead body is their companion on the journey.
Well, I suppose that is 'children and family' ... but not as we might expect!
1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.