Tangerines Review [2013]: A Timely & Topical Drama About The Futility Of War, Hatred & Conflict


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.

Set in a rural village during the 1992-1993 War in Abkhazia, Tangerines concerns an Estonian pacifist who brings two men from opposing forces to his house after finding them gravely wounded in a recent conflict. Nursing them back to health, he tries to dissipate the tension between the two enemies living under the same roof, both of whom have vowed to kill each other once they’ve recovered.

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.

There are only four people that matter in the film, each exhibiting a certain depth & well-defined arc, and what the story pursues is the unity that develops between the two enemies as they slowly discard their prejudice after getting to know each other a bit more and learn to value the humanity in each other. The final act may not pack as strong a punch as expected but it nonetheless drives the point home.

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.



Singh Sumit

Cinema is my life capsule. Horror is my refuge. Jurassic Park is first love. Lord of the Rings is perfection. Spielberg is GOAT. Cameron is King. In Nolan I trust. Pixar makes my heart sing. Reviewing films is a force of habit. Letterboxd is home. Blog is where I'm currently inactive. HoF just happened to came along.