Keti Machavariani’s stunningly shot debut feature traces the intersecting peregrinations of three characters in a Georgian summertime resort on the Black Sea. Virtually plotless, Machavariani’s film eschews all backstory, her characters’ experiences inferred from their weary or defiantly deadpan faces. But the camera finds beauty in their passage: in the long-limbed walk of the waitress trekking from her daytime restaurant job to her nighttime bar gig, in the workaday rounds of an exiled Abkhazian cop, and in the breathless run of a homeless teenage girl, pursued by police. Prime fest fare, the insistent images signal a director to watch.
At the center of the pic’s makeshift triangle is waitress Nana (Nino Koridze). Neither seeking out nor shying away from human companionship, but never suffering fools or exploiters gladly, Nana occasionally connects with people through a genuine, if desultory, casual kindness.
Caught in a downpour, she hitches a ride in a passing patrol car, her simple curiosity drawing out ultra-taciturn cop Niko (Gagi Svanidze). A refugee from the Georgia/Abkhazian conflict whose only contacts, besides his friendly partner (George Kipshidze), are his parents, who live in a rundown apartment building where dad cares for his Alzheimer-afflicted mother, Niko silently pursues Nana by showing up at the restaurant and taking her out for drives and wordless roadside couplings.
Out for one of her customary nocturnal swims, Nana is approached by homeless 15-year-old Sopo (Fea Tsivadze) who asks for a smoke. Soon the two are puffing in wordless harmony. Nana later takes the girl, whom police have been chasing, under her wing, providing her with temporary shelter, despite the hostility of catty women in the dorm where Nana sleeps. Nana helps Sopo get an ID so that the runaway can travel to the Salt White beach, a photo of which she carries like a talisman, though she has never been there.
The heart of the movie lies in the characters’ purposeful movement against striking Georgian seascapes as they traverse space from one side of the frame to the other, the camera seemingly never imposing formal constraints but apparently tugged by the energy of bodies in motion. This energy, though still mostly directionless, constitutes an unspoken promise of breaking through the stultified inertia of post-Soviet Georgia.