Every once in awhile, you see a movie that gives you hope, again. Hope that movies can be more than spectacles, can be about real people with real problems in real places. It's a hope that started a long time ago when you first saw The Grapes of Wrath, then continued with Bicycle Thieves, Shoeshine, Miracle in Milan, Bitter Rice, Two Women (yes, Italian filmmakers created a mother lode of realistic films) Norma Rae - you get the idea. Movies that move us and tell a story about us.
Now, you can add Irina to that list. A Bulgarian movie made by first-time feature director Nadejda Koseva, written by Ms. Koseva, Svetoslav Ovtcharov and Bojan Vuletic, Irina tells the story of a young mother, Irina ( Martina Apostolova), with her baby boy living in a cramped house in a poor village, struggling to keep her family going. Her husband, Sasha ( Hristo Ushev), is unemployed as is Irina's sister, Ludmilla ( Kasiel Noah Asher) who lives with them.
One day, the roof falls in - she gets fired from her job and when she gets home early discovers her husband having sex with her sister. That same night, her husband has a terrible accident in which he loses both of his legs. We are in a world where things like this happen. It's the real world inhabited not by good guys and bad guys but by people who are sometimes good and sometimes bad.
Director Koseva, in a conversation after the showing of Irina, said that the inspiration for making this movie was her experience having a child several years ago when she realized that, contrary to accepted belief, women were not only men's equal in strength, they far exceeded men. Irina proves her resiliency when, desperately seeking a way to make money, she turns to being a surrogate mother for a wealthy couple ( Irini Jambonas and Alexander Kossev) who have their own brand of problems.
There are no chases, no one has super powers to surmount their everyday problems of finding money to eat, coal to keep warm and a place to call home. The best these characters can hope for is a chance to be forgiven and to forgive.
Irina, its creators and cast have won awards in film festivals all over the world and now have won both the audience favorite award and the judges award as Best Film at SEEfest 2019.
This is not some obscure vision of life in the 21st Century, but a timeless tale of one woman's quest for a better world for her family and herself. In that quest, in her journey, all of us can see our own.