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Navigating character, tradition and fate

‘In Bloom’ has teenage friends dealing with the world on their own terms

Darleen Ortega | 3/12/2014, 11:18 a.m.
Mariam Bokeria (left) and Lika Babluani star in “In Bloom.” Photo courtesy of Big World Pictures

The last third of the film is where those observations pay off. The gun goes off -- not the literal gun, but a figurative one -- and the film's triumph is in capturing the difference in the girls' reactions. Fearless Natia is disconnected; she even adopts a celebrative stance about a turn of events we know she did not want. When the figurative gun goes off, Eka is the one who fights, and who calls out a patriarchal community that shows no interest in protecting a 14-year-old girl. And then, when the entire rest of the community moves on as though no wrong has been done, Eka sits, sullen.

Then comes a deeply moving scene that is good enough reason to watch this lovely, perceptive film. Quiet Eka rises, and she seizes command of a dance floor at a wedding that she does not celebrate. She dances a traditional folk dance with fervor, co-opting a form of assent to the proceedings into a medium for her own voice. Even if no one understands her message quite the way she means it, Eka finds a way to re-engage with her friend, and to express her truth.

The world of these two girls shifts at that wedding. They remain friends, and the dangers they face are far from over. They are still surrounded by loaded guns, including the literal one. And they are still children, whatever their culture may think. But this feminist gem of a film quietly demonstrates the point at which they embark on different paths for relating to the world.

Darleen Ortega is a judge on the Oregon Court of Appeals and the first woman of color to serve in that capacity. Her movie review column Opinionated Judge appears regularly in The Portland Observer. You can find her movie blog at opinionatedjudge.blogspot.com.