In Bloom is essentially a down-at-heel teen movie set in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, in 1992, as hardship and poverty grind on, despite the country’s new-found independence, following the break-up of the USSR.
14-year-old teenage girls Eka (Lika Babluani) and Natia (Mariam Bokeria) hang out with their friends in the raggedy outskirts of Tbilsi. Eka’s father is in prison, but her mother Ana (Ana Nijaradze) will not tell her why.
Natia’s father (Temiko Chichinadze) is an alcoholic who terrorises her mother (Tamar Bukhnikashvilli) and frightens Natia’s kid brother (Sandro Shanshiashvilli). Somehow, despite the rows and the tension, the two children enjoy life as best they can.
Their stern but loving grandmother (Berta Khapava) cooks the family meals on a tight budget, typically plates of beans. There are occasional references to the struggle in Abkhazia (the hostility between this self-declared republic and Georgia continues as yet unresolved in 2014). In one of the tense daily queues for bread, militia members jump to the front, demanding ten loaves.
Meanwhile, Natia falls for the handsome, clean-cut Lado (Data Zakareishvili). However, the thuggish Kote (Zurab Gogaladze) believes that Natia belongs to him, so he and his friends kidnap her to force marriage. This arrangement she resignedly enters into, a child bride at a boisterous wedding party, celebrated with dancing and a traditional band.
Earlier, in a strange, unexplained gesture, Lado has presented Natia with a gun, which gets nervously passed around between the two girls like a hot potato. The intrigue centres around what use this weapon might be put to, as the film gathers sinister overtones.
It could have a tighter, more focused narrative, but In Bloom is a compelling, moving drama about desperately poor people under pressure. Showing at the IFI.