March 27, 2014 at 1:00 am

Tom Long

Review: Teen girls struggle together in bleak 'In Bloom'

Lika Babluani as Eka and Mariam Bokeria as Natia find a refuge of sorts with each other in 'In Bloom.' (Detroit Film Theatre)

There’s very little blooming in “In Bloom,” a coming-of-age story involving two teen girls in the relentlessly gray city of Tbilisi, Georgia.

That would be Georgia the country south of Russia, not Georgia home of the Atlanta Falcons. The difference between the two locales lurks over “In Bloom” like a dark cloud.

The year is 1992, and breadlines form daily, young toughs wander the streets, alcohol abuse is common, and the future seems as grim as the present. Yet two schoolgirls — Eka (Lika Babluani) and Natia (Mariam Bokeria) — are enduring the universal torture of dysfunctional families, pushy boys, local bullies and dull teachers.

Eka has the more stable situation, even though her father is in prison and her older sister disdains her. Natia, on the other hand, lives with an alcoholic father who is constantly fighting with his wife, with a shouting grandmother chastising both parents. And so the girlfriends find refuge in each other.

Natia is a natural beauty and has two boys pursuing her. One gives her a gun with one bullet as a present and then takes off for Moscow. The other follows her on the street, proclaiming his love. Of course, she prefers the one in Moscow.

Eka is harassed daily by a young punk, so Natia gives her the gun to protect herself. After Eka puts the weapon to unexpected use, she returns it, but the weapon is a constant question mark in the film — will it go off, will it hurt one of the girls, will one of them use it and then suffer as a result?

That tension of an awful turn permeates “In Bloom.” The world painted by directors Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon GroB is almost relentlessly grim, and even the giggles of two schoolgirls get drowned. When Eka unexpectedly breaks into an extended folk dance at a wedding, it comes as a shock. What does she have to dance about?

And then the realization hits: It’s a dance of defiance. That’s about the best the characters in this film can do, is dance in the face of the dreariness and find solace in one another. Acts which are hardly limited to Tbilisi, Georgia.

‘In Bloom’

'In Bloom'

GRADE: B

Not rated

Running time: 102 minutes

At the Detroit Film Theatre

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