out of Five
Running time: 109
This dark and dismal Albanian drama has some admirable performances but ultimately, the film itself lacks any real spark and becomes a little self-pitying.
What’s it all about?
Set in northern Albania, The Forgiveness of Blood stars Tristan Halilaj as Nik, an energetic 17 year old with ambitious plans of seducing the girl of his dreams at school and opening up his own Internet café after graduating. When his father Mark (Refet Abazi) is involved in a local land dispute in which a neighbour is killed, forcing him into hiding, the family of five are left to fend for themselves and Nik’s sister Rudina (Sindi Lacej), must take over the family business of selling bread from a horse and cart. But with the Kanun’s old fashioned, fifteenth century code still in place, which gives the deceased’s family the right to kill a male member of the murderer’s family, older brother Nik is forced into virtual house arrest, where he constantly lives in fear of his fate.
Director Joshua Marston follows up his Oscar nominated debut feature film, Maria Full of Grace, with this brutal and well researched drama, which bursts with touching performances from its relatively unknown cast. In particular Lacej as the once hopeful teenager Rudina, who now lives in fear of her family’s safety, is wholly committed and noteworthy in an understated and convincing performance. The film’s pacing and script is adequate and Marston, an American director, deserves credit for his careful study of Albanian traditions and lifestyles.
Ultimately, The Forgiveness of Blood lacks any real spark and after its tolerable first act, becomes a rather depressing account of one family’s struggle to survive. Even in the most action packed parts of the film, there’s still a distinct deficiency of excitement and unfortunately the film just isn’t as moving as it wants to be. Before the action takes off, Marston fails to form the vital bond and connection between the audience and the characters so that when bad things eventually happen, we’re almost entirely unconcerned. With the bread- (and later cigarette) selling horse and cart managing to feed a family of six, the notion seems a little far fetched and the film translates as self-pitying.
Wholly depressing, The Forgiveness of Blood is a gloomy drama that’s not going to put you in a good mood at the cinema. If you’re a fan of Joshua Marston, it’s worth a watch but if not, this is a film to be left alone.