Vodka Lemon (PG)

Directed by Hiner Saleem; Written by Lei Dinety, Pauline Gouzenne and Hiner Saleem
Screening at FACT from 6th-12th November 2004

Reviewed by Adam Ford

In a snowbound valley in post-Soviet Armenia, a town is dying on its knees and pain is crystallised like the frozen ice. With no prospect of work on the horizon, families resort to selling wardrobes, TVs and daughters to keep the wolf from the door. Whilst making his daily pilgrimage to his wife's grave, Hamo (Romen Avinian) slowly gets to know Nina (Lala Sarkissian), who is mourning her dead husband. In spite of all the poverty and despair, the pair begin an almost adolescent romance that will bring a flicker of hope to their dismal lives.

Mixing just the right quantities of pathos and wry humour, Saleem has produced an ultimately optimistic picture about mankind's ability to survive the harshest conditions with dignity and warmth intact. Due to the film's relentlessly slow pace and bleak setting, it may take a good half hour to climb into the director's mind and start enjoying the strange concoction for what it is, but whilst Vodka Lemon is an acquired taste, it is definitely one worth acquiring.

Vodka Lemon is shown alongside Harvie Krumpet, a similarly delightful tale that won the 2004 Oscar for Best Animated Short. Geoffrey Rush narrates.