Set in a pastoral corner of Serbia across the Ibar river from Albania during the Kosovo war, Michaela Kezele’s first feature, “My Beautiful Country,” concerns two star-crossed lovers — a young Serbian widowed mother and a wounded Albanian soldier who takes refuge in her home. Bathed in golden light, the handsome couple enjoy their amorous idyll in defiance of escalating hostilities, enlarging their protective reach to include the two boys. Strong perfs, particularly by the kids, whose own dramas build tangentially under the NATO bombings, could sell this wartime romance’s otherwise predictable trajectory.
Helmer Kezele, herself the product of a Serb-Croat union, clearly shares her heroine Danica’s (Zrinka Cvitesic) disgust with war, stressing day-to-day domestic rifts caused by the ongoing ethnic conflict: Her older son skips school, while the younger has remained mute since his father’s death. The only menfolk left in the small village are either old or mobilized, and Serbian women bar Albanian neighbors from their basements during air raids. Though Kerkele portrays the brief romance between Danica and her Albanian (Misel Maticevic) in visually idealized terms, the affair’s vulnerability also becomes apparent, with community-wide reconciliation indefinitely deferred.