Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Since Otar Left

(Depuis qu'Otar est parti..., France, 2003)

An old woman, her daughter, and her granddaughter, share a home in Tbilisi, Georgia. The country is a mess, something I hadn’t realized; the power goes off at night, the daughter used to be an engineer and now can’t find work. The old woman thinks things were better back in the days of Stalin. Her son, Otar, a medical student, has moved illegally to Paris to find work. Then Otar dies, and the daughter and granddaughter don’t have the heart to tell her.

We’ve seen this theme before in Life is Beautiful, and in Goodbye, Lenin, where a son conceals from his ardent communist mother that East Germany has ceased to exist. It’s handled very well here. Grandma is no fool and … I don’t want to spoil the surprise of how she reacts when she finds out the truth, or what her granddaughter does once she gets to Paris. It is a metaphor for the communist era when, as one person puts it, “we all lived in a lie, told each other lies, and all accepted it.”