If there is any year when one should watch a bleak drama about an Ukrainian couple trapped behind enemy lines during a Russian invasion, I suppose it’s this year. Klondike, filmed before the current Ukraine-Russia War and set during the 2014 Crimea invasion, is a dark, sad, but most upsettingly emotionally flat drama that frustratingly never kicks into gear.
Despite its explosive opening, Klondike relies too heavily on its understated approach, a clearly conscious decision by writer/director Maryna Er Gorbach. The film follows heavily pregnant Irka (Oksana Cherkashina) and her husband Tolik (Serhiy Shadrin), who, due to Irka’s stubbornness, decide not to leave their home even as pro-Russian separatists flex their power.
Klondike’s biggest problem is that you really don’t care what happens to the two leads. They are sympathetic to a degree but so standoffish in their demeanor even with one another it’s incredibly challenging to connect with either on an emotional level. They face a series of challenges and obstacles, but many of them feel self-inflicted. Further, Gorbach’s refusal to inject even the slightest of affect into the story or her characters is frustrating, to say the least. You can tell what she is attempting to do, but the end product leaves with you a sense of emptiness.
Technically well made but monotonous and toneless, Klondike is a film that instead of intensifying as things progress becomes increasingly tedious instead. It may be an awards contender for the subject matter at hand, but there are much better movies that depict the effects of war and occupation on common folk better than this.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.