A film made about a revolution is surely a winning bet in showing people at the their fiercest or most desperate. A film made during the revolution then is surely even more determined to be the extremes of life? Not so with Julia Blue, a nuanced and thoughtful story of the eponymous lead filmed in Ukraine during the 2014 uprising against the annexation of Crimea by Russia. It is in no uncertain terms a war for those in Julia Blue. A full-blown assault against the rights of Ukranians and Ukraine.
Julia (Polina Snisarenko) is a photographer who throws herself fully into the protests and occupations in Kiev. She is a charming presence at all times and it’s not really possible to root against her whether she’s developing negatives or teasing her dorm manager. As part of her being pretty excellent she volunteers at a hospital for soldiers and its here she meets ‘English,’ an irresistible performance from Dima Yaroshenko as someone with no home to go to, losing friends and troubled by his experience in the war. In Julia, he finds a source of joy. It could have veered so close to manic pixie territory but huzzah it does not. Instead its that even-sided and classic story of man and woman meet, have fun, look at photos and go home to her small village in the Carpathians where they are greeted by the local rapper who picks them up in a bright yellow car that definitely needs pushing over potholes of any size.
Filming was borne sort by of chance when director Roxy Toporowych went to study in Ukraine just as the conflict was starting. In depicting life in a small village the director never overplays her hand, she engaged the locals to play themselves and judging from the Q&A afterwards they did just that, starting an impromptu toast at a wedding scene and just getting on with life. However, the film is not created from luck and handy ancestral connections. Both script and method have created a convincing and engaging love story between two people struggling with the changes bought by growing up, ambition, conflict and revolution.
The landscape, food, drink and clothing are well-used to immerse us in Ukraine without getting overly twee with it. I watched surrounded by Ukrainians who did not observe the code muttering their approvals and delight when they saw something from home on screen. The film has captured the frustrations and sorrow of many it seems in a subtle and joyful showing of life and love in a time of revolution and of the ordinary choices we all make that ripple out in both expected and unexpected ways.
For more on the Glasgow Film Festival 2019 click here.