“Love Station” is a Kazakh charmer that should win over all but the hard of heart. Central Asian yarn of a girl torn between two contrasting Romeos has a fresh, ingenuous appeal that won’t conquer mountains but should prove a small-scale hit on the fest circuit.
Setting is the village of Mahabbat in 1977, when Kazakhstan was still under Soviet rule. Arriving from out of town to enroll in high school, cute teen Gulnaz locks eyes with Oral, and for the latter it’s love at first sight. Fly in the ointment is Oral’s smooth friend Zhenis, who also makes tracks toward the girl, finally marrying her when Oral decides to leave for army service. There’s nothing here that hasn’t been done a thousand times before, but director Talgat Temenov, co-adapting his own 10-year-old novella, gets unaffected playing from his young actors and wraps the whole confection in a persuasive stylistic package.
Using soft filters, an eclectic, upbeat music track and plenty of heightened light-play, Temenov creates an almost fairy-tale atmosphere. Discreet use of crane shots shows a technical savvy at odds with the apparently naive style.
Performances, especially by Bayan Mukhitdenova as the pretty Gulnaz, are on target. Pic was also shot in a Kazakh-language version (“Mahabbat beketi”), not ready in time for Berlin fest unspooling.