Since Otar Left... reveals its heartwarming pleasures immediately - in the first scene, Eka (90 year-old Esther Gorintin), her daughter Marina (Nino Khomasuridze) and Marina's daughter Ada (Dinara Drukarova) sit in a cafe. As Eka enjoys a slice of cake, Marina reaches over for a forkful. The look Eka shoots Marina, as well as Ada's reaction, tells you everything you need to know about these three women in less than a minute and a half. It's a beautifully constructed and acted scene that proves to be the tip of the iceberg in director/co-writer Julie Bertuccelli's delightful and bittersweet film.
The chief pleasure in both Eka's and Marina's life come in the form of letters from Otar, Marina's brother and Eka's son. The three women live in modern day Tbilisi, Georgia, a roughshod former Soviet republic that experiences frequent power and water outages. Eka desperately misses her son, a physician-turned-doctor living and working in Paris. Marina resents her mother's adoration of Otar, despite Ada encouraging it. Upon receiving tragic news concerning Otar, the two women are forced to deal with Eka and a situation neither anticipated.
A film that derives much of its power from the three female leads (Otar is never seen onscreen), Bertuccelli's examination of familial conflict and maternal love is an ultimately powerful, moving statement on the lengths that loved ones will go to protect one another. Gorintin fairly steals the show as the feisty, stubborn Eka - her performance is a treasure that elevates Since Otar Left.... Drukarova is also excellent, as is Khomasuridze.
Fans of deft foreign films will find much to enjoy here and those scared away by subtitles may also delight in the wonderfully expressive performances that hardly require translation.
Presented in a very clean and clear 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, Since Otar Left... is largely free of defects. The image does occasionally go soft and overall has a very digital (rather than film-like) appearance to it. Nevertheless, it's nicely saturated and doesn't detract from the experience of viewing the film.
A film built around dialogue, Since Otar Left... is offered in Dolby 2.0 stereo only. The languages spoken are a mix of French, Georgian and Russian - all of which come through loud and clear with no distortion. Optional English and French subtitles are available.
Since Otar Left... boasts a handful of extras - 12 deleted scenes that can be played separately or together, all presented in non-anamorphic widescreen with forced English subtitles; a 55-minute behind-the-scenes documentary (which can be played in six separate parts or all together) with narration from Bertuccelli and English subtitles as well as the American theatrical trailer presented in non-anamorphic widescreen.
Esther Gorintin's performance is reason enough to recommend this film - she's an absolute joy to watch and that's not discrediting her cast members in the least; all of the female leads are excellent, making the eventual truths of Since Otar Left... all the more wrenching. A tremendously engaging film well worth seeking out. Recommended.