AJFF Review: ‘Natasha’ and Rotten Russian Romance

AJFF Review: ‘Natasha’ and Rotten Russian Romance

Marcia Caller Jaffe

After 35 years with the Atlanta newspapers, Marcia currently serves as Retail VP for the Buckhead Business Association, where she delivers news and trends (laced with a little gossip). On the side, Marcia is Captain of the Senior Cheerleaders for the WNBA Atlanta Dream.

Natasha” at the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival is billed as a coming-of-age story, albeit between two Russian émigrés in Canada.

Those of us who remember “The Summer of ’42” or “Goodbye, Columbus” will quickly realize that this is no typical teenage romp in the hay. The debasement is more akin to “Carrie” or “The Exorcist” with smoked salmon on pumpernickel.

Sasha Gordon and Alex Ozerov star in "Natasha."
Sasha Gordon and Alex Ozerov star in “Natasha.”

For parents, it’s not easy to watch. We can ponder the meta message: nature vs. nurture. Are family bonds so broken from a tough, decadent Russian society that a free country cannot help patch them? Natasha says her mother got paid by her boyfriends “in bruises and curses.”

We have hope that the other Russian, a teenage boy with an intact, loving family as a foundation, will have better odds against drug peddling as he flails about on his bicycle, eschewing summer jobs.

Natasha from Moscow delights in her own child pornography profiles on the web. Do they believably glide into a fairy-tale romance?

The music of “Natasha” is lilting, and the scenery can be lush on the manicured streets of Toronto. The nudity is partial but explicit. The teenage acting is superb; the Russian adults seem to be parodies of themselves.

A tarnished mail-order bride with a bad history and something akin to young love evolve in this tale of relocation and a how-to guide in using sex as a currency.

My movie companion, Berta Mebel, who emigrated from Latvia to Atlanta over 35 years ago, didn’t feel that the story line was specific to Russia: “It could happen anywhere, although I knew some tough characters like that.”

I think it was more a case of naïve parents. They didn’t understand the manipulative nature of the mother and daughter (probably feigning being Jewish), who play their own game of using others. They are like fish looking for water in a robotic state, lacking feelings.

The movie left me with a hopeful note that maybe the teens can overcome the influences of their friends, upbringing and technology for a new beginning.

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