Klondike (2022)

A couple’s marriage slowly disintegrates as war draws closer in this measuredly-paced drama set in the context of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over separatist-controlled Eastern Ukraine. 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review #2,398

Dir. Maryna Er Gorbach
2022 | Ukraine | Drama | 100 mins | 2.35:1 | Ukrainian, Russian, Chechen & Dutch
Not rated – likely to be M18 for violence and mature themes

Cast: Oksana Cherkashyna, Sergey Shadrin, Oleg Shcherbina
Plot: The story of a Ukrainian family living on the border of Russia and Ukraine during the start of the war. Irka refuses to leave her house even as the village gets captured by armed forces. Shortly after, they find themselves at the centre of an international air crash catastrophe
Awards: Won Directing Award – World Cinema Dramatic (Sundance); Won Prize of the Ecumenical Jury – Panorama (Berlinale)
International Sales: Arthood Entertainment

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Russia-Ukraine War; Politics & Humanity
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Slow
Audience Type: General Arthouse

Viewed: Screener
Spoilers: No

As Ukrainians continue to defend their homeland from an unprovoked attack by Russian forces, Klondike brings us back to 2014 when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over separatist-controlled Eastern Ukraine, sparking an international outcry and an endless blame game. 

A married Ukrainian couple witnesses the tragedy in this fictional drama inspired by true events, but as war draws close to the isolated village that they live in, their marriage also slowly disintegrates. 

Part of their home has been erroneously bombed by separatists and the man of the house is conflicted as to which side he needs to side with. 

“When it’s all over, let’s put a big window on the hole.”

In Maryna Er Gorbach’s first solo directing effort (her previous four features were co-directed with her husband, Mehmet Bahadir Er), she attempts to bring these disparate elements—the plane crash, war and occupation, and marital problems—together, though she is not always successful in producing an engrossing work. 

It is beautifully shot but the pacing is way too measured, and she indulges in one too many a long take with slow pan.  One might argue that this shows mastery of craft, but I feel Klondike would have been more effective if it was less leisurely. 

Still, there are powerful moments of confrontation, and when these moments conflate the marital with the political, or the personal with the collective, they become moments for reflection.  But really, who has time to think deeply when there is so much at stake? 

Grade: B


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