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Given Vladimir Putin’s remarks this week about “humiliations” endured by Russia from the seemingly overnight collapse of the Soviet Union, “In Bloom” is particularly timely.

Set in Tbilisi, the capital of a newly independent Georgia — long part of the Soviet Union — in 1992, this coming-of-age drama is mired in the region’s confusion, anger and violence. There’s an air of potential explosiveness everywhere: in homes, bread lines, a classroom.

Armed vigilantes do whatever they want. Sectarian conflict is burbling up. A battle on the Black Sea is going badly for Georgia.

Co-directors Nana Ekvtimishvili (a Georgian for whom this story has autobiographical elements) and Simon Gross concentrate on the ripple effects of all that national tension throughout everyday life in Tbilisi.

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The film’s

lead characters, 14-year-old best friends Eka (Lika Babluani) and Natia (Mariam Bokeria), endure adult angst and cruelty the best they can, finding release in each other’s company. They know they will eventually grow up to be as desperate or vitriolic as the grown-ups in their lives. They learn to fight back against their fate with rebelliousness and, in a terrific scene, a bold assertion of Eka’s flowering spirit through a spontaneous folk dance.

Yet while “In Bloom” is, to some degree, an act of memory, there’s a flatness about it.
The film accurately reflects the girls’ numbness, but it is devoid of sustaining emotional impact.
Eka and Natia’s
full pain is oddly remote.

Tom Keogh:

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