Debut feature from Georgian femme helmer Nana Dzanelidze is a handsomely filmed but indigestibly syrupy fable about reaffirming national and cultural identity. Earnest humanistic quality could usher this leisurely folkloric froth into the odd festival or quality tube berth, but ultimately “The Lullaby” will sing most audiences to sleep.
A good half-hour of the slim running time is taken up with an ambling prologue in which familial bliss is established to saturation point. The sun-drenched idyll shows an aristocratic couple in rural Georgia in an unspecified historical period. With their beloved infant daughter, Keto, the group prays and plays together, spontaneously breaking into rapturous choral recitals like some kind of Pre-Raphaelite Von Trapp family.
Enter two scruffy vagabonds, who partake of the saintly family’s hospitality and then kidnap Keto. Though not explicitly tagged by nationality, the villains appear to be Muslims from Georgia’s neighboring republic Azerbaijan, lending the film a decidedly propagandistic political subtext.
Beautifully shot and lit, and edited with a succession of quick cuts, the film overdoses on its greeting-card visual splendors. Intense playing from the adult thesps can’t ward off a stolid, dramatically flat feeling, while kid cast members push cutesiness to the limit. Pic was a contentious choice to split the best film prize at Pesaro.