Mick Jordan reviews Elene Naveriani’s tale of a 48 year old Georgian woman who must choose whether to pursue a relationship or continue her life of independence.

Blackbird, Blackbird, Blackberry is a film from Georgia directed by Elene Naveriani, based on a novel by Tamta Melashvili and starring Eka Chavleishvili.  One of the absolute highlights of this year’s Dublin International Film Festival, it goes on release at the IFI in Dublin from May 3rd.

Etero runs a small shop in a small suburb of a small town and has done so for most of her 48 years.  Every week she gets a delivery of stock from the same delivery man, and every month she goes into town for further supplies where she goes to the same café to have the same coffee and cream cake treat.  One day when she is making her regular daily outing to pick blackberries she is distracted by the singing of a blackbird.  As she watches the blackbird the blackbird watches her and they share a moment – before Etero slips and plunges down the side of a ravine to her death.

After a few minutes pondering how little impact her passing would make on her community she realises she is not actually dead.  Deeply shaken by her near-death experience she returns to her shop where the delivery man is waiting, wondering why she is so uncharacteristically late.  An even greater surprise awaits him as Etero brings him to the back room and has sex with him amongst the new deliveries.  “So ends 48 years of virginity” she muses to herself and so starts a whole new life for her.  

Or more accurately a whole new approach to what her life is.  For years she has resignedly accepted her role as the lonely singleton pitied and patronised by her neighbours and particularly by her circle of “friends”.  These last are made up of a group of prominent local women who have grown up together and followed the same path of marriage and settled domesticity and have no qualms about frequently telling Etero how much better off than her they are.  But Etero now sees herself as free, completely her own person without needing anyone to validate her but herself.  She begins a passionate romance with the delivery man but tells no-one, now amused by their attitude towards her as she sees their lives stagnating while hers is just getting started.

Chavleishvili is magnificent as Etoros – she spends most of the film wearing the same severe clothes and the same severe expression but her inner character shines through and before you realise it you have fallen for her as intensely as her smitten delivery man.  So much so that you revel in her triumphs over the local cliques and cheer her on in her determination to stay free and independent at all costs.

The story itself goes its own way and frequently meanders off into unexpected directions throwing up surprises and shocks in equal measure but always taking you with it as you root for Etoro every step of the way in her new journey.  The conclusion, when it comes, is the biggest shock and surprise of them all but a very welcome one – made all the more so by all that has gone before.

Blackbird, Blackbird, Blackberry is in cinemas fom 3rd May 2024.

 

 

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