Esmas Secret (UK release title) - Grbavica (2006)
Directed by Jasmila Zbanic
Starring Mirjana Karanovic, Luna Mijovic
Although the emphasis of this story is firmly set on struggling mother Esma and her young teen daughter Sara, Esma in particular is indicative of a nation split asunder and still reeling from the effects of war. Her life is governed by trying to support Sara and herself, balancing the need to earn a living and to give her time and love to her daughter.
Living in Grbavica, an area of Sarajevo, every day is surrounded by reminders of the war that split the former Yugoslavia apart. Esma lives with the scars, particularly mental and her life is riddled of anxiety, guilt, fear and constant mistrust, she holds a secret that is a constant burden to any chance to move on from those painful years. Until she can open herself up to the truth, it will be extremely hard to let the healing process begin.
From the perspective of the UK title, the story is accentuated firmly onto the mother/ daughter relationship, unfortunately in this case; the secret itself is very easy to determine, as friendly play between the two ends with Esma becoming very distraught. Its then just a case of the full story behind the secret slowly revealing itself.
Taken from its original title, this is more about a nation that cannot forget the pain and atrocities of war, a generation that are finding it difficult to come to terms with the past, to move on, to cleanse itself from the horrors witnessed and felt.
Grbavica as an area still bears the scars of war, indeed people are still being injured or killed from munitions and mines that remain there, talk of internment camps and mass graves along with other atrocities are common to modern wars but are no less painful for it. All they do illustrate is how little mankind has truly developed through the aeons.
The performances from the central pair are excellent, Mirjana Karanovic in the role of Esma carries the bulk of the film and gives a powerful performance with all the gravitas the subject deserves. The one problem for me was that the final section of the film, once Esma's secret had been fully disclosed was far too rushed and not given the time or depth it deserved, the final scene though is emotionally heart wrenching but not in a melodramatic way, very convincingly performed.
Well worth seeing in my opinion, not a chick flick as the UK title would suggest but a film concerning the after effects of a war on the society that have lived through it and the generation born into it.
BBFC rated 15
R2 dvd released by Dogwoof Pictures.