Angel On The Right

Postcard from Tajikistan

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OPENS AUGUST 29, CERT 15, 89 MINS

An ex-con, Hamro (Maruf Pulodzoda), sporting a scowl that could shatter granite and fierce, wolfish eyes, returns to his Tajikistan village after 10 years in a Moscow jail. Convinced his mother is dying, he starts repairs to their dilapidated house. So begins an often grim look at life on the remote edges of the former Soviet empire. Money is tight here, and relief comes from a vodka bottle or the scratchy Bollywood movies shown at a ramshackle outdoor cinema. When Moscow gangsters arrive demanding money owed to them, things only get grimmer for Hamro.

Not that this is an excessively depressive movie. There are moments of deadpan humour and amusing cameos from the village eccentrics. As Hamro grows closer to his mother and long-lost son, his tough-guy exterior reveals a tender side, and what starts out as gloomy social realism turns into a fable about familial responsibility.

Built from small, sharply observed incidents rather than big dramatic showdowns, Angel… requires some patience. But the rewards are rich and touching.

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