In a world so ravaged by endless wars & poisoned with people hating one another, Tangerines (also known as Mandariinid) arrives as an elegantly crafted & sensibly told morality tale that exquisitely demonstrates the futility of war, hate & conflict and shows that beneath all the things that divides us, there lies a humanity which isn’t exclusive to any one demographic.
Written, produced & directed by Zaza Urushadze, the film takes a simple premise and turns it into a thoroughly compelling drama that spikes in tension every now n then. Urushadze’s approach to his material is grounded in realism as he handles the anti-war themes with precision and allows each character to chip in with their own views & beliefs which then finds a common ground as plot progresses.
Despite the conflict raging nearby, the remote setting has a very serene feel to it that is further elevated by tangerine trees that infuse life into the deserted town. Camera is silently operated, often employing long takes, and allows each scene to unfold at its own pace. Editing is relaxed while the score beautifully complements the drama from start to finish. But the main highlight is the solid performances.
Leading from the front is Lembit Ulfsak as the elderly & wise Ivo whose house is where the drama unfurls. His performance has a calm demeanour to it and it’s an admirable work from the senior actor by all means. Giorgi Nakashidze & Mikheil Meskhi are in as the Chechen & Georgian soldier respectively and both play their part responsibly while Elmo Nüganen does well with his role as Ivo’s neighbour & friend.
On an overall scale, Tangerines is a thought-provoking, riveting & compassionate story of moral, honour, humanity & harmony with its heart at the right place. The nail-biting tension evident in the scenes involving the two enemies sitting in front of each other do make up for the film’s finest moments but what really makes it a hopeful & rewarding experience is its timely, topical & universal themes. Well-deserving of a broader viewership, this Estonian gem comes highly recommended.