The death of a family member is probably the single most emotionally painful thing that we as human beings have to bear. The prospect of disappearing form this earth, never to return to our family and loved ones again, is simply not an understandable concept, and trying to console those who have lost a loved one is indeed a daunting task. The pain of loss and the progression of remorse are evident throughout “Since Otar Left.” Director-writer Julie Bertuccelli asks the following question: Is it better to live happily in a world of fantasy or to suffer the pain that comes with reality?
Eka, played wonderfully by 90-year-old Esther Gorintin, adores her son Otar but is only in contact with him through the occasional phone call and letter. Meanwhile, her daughter Marina, played by Nino Khomassouridze, is bitter over the amount of attention that her mother pays to Otar. The youngest of the family, Ada, played by Dinara Drukarouva, is tired of the senseless bickering of her mother and grandmother and simply wishes to leave their home in the nation of Georgia and experience Western Europe. The family’s lives drastically change when Ada and Marina receive a phone call informing them that Otar has died in a construction accident. Faced with delivering the grim news to Otar’s adoring mother, they decide instead to write forged letters, carrying on the belief that Otar is still alive.
The plot seems recycled. (If one were looking to find a humorous interpretation of death and lying, “Weekend at Bernie’s” is a good choice.) However, the real strength of the movie is the acting, particularly on the part of the elderly Gorintin. Gorintin has an entire range of emotions in the movie. We get the stubbornness of an old woman who is facing the realities of an ever-changing world. When Marina suggests that her brother is a Stalinist, Eka says, “If being a Stalinist means being honest, patriotic, altruistic … then I’m a Stalinist!” What shines through more than Eka’s communist tendencies is her love for her son and the rest of her family. The sense of oncoming grief and sorrow is palpable when Eka demands to go to France to see her son who, unbeknownst to her, has been deceased for months. Through all of her stubbornness and unwavering sensibilities, there is a foundation of tremendous strength in Eka that resonates throughout the entire family and forms a wonderfully touching and emotional movie.