Starring Alex Ozerov, Sasha K. Gordon, Aya-tatyana Stolnits, Igor Ovadis, Deanna Dezmari, Genadijs Dolganovs, Aidan Shipley, Pavel Tsitrinel, Mila Kanev, Lola Tash, Alla Kadysh, Sergiy Kotelenets, John Mavro, Jonathan Purdon, Joshua Teixera, Grisha Pasternak and David Boyce.
Screenplay by David Bezmozgis.
Directed by David Bezmozgis.
Distributed by Menemesha Films. 93 minutes. Not Rated.
With immigration currently such a hot-button topic, it is surprising that there are not more films made that examine the immigrant experience. It takes a huge amount of bravery to leave everything you have ever known behind and go to a new place, with new people and customs you have no understanding about.
Natasha is not necessarily about a controversial immigrant community – it is about a family of Russians who have ended up in Canada – but in all other ways it shows the sense of dislocation and adjustment in the search for a new place to live.
Natasha is also a coming-of-age film. The main character Mark (Alex Ozerov) is settled into the Canadian life – his parents moved to Toronto when he was a mere toddler, so it’s really all he knows. Now 16, he has long since settled into the world which seems like home to him. Still, while he and his friends all speak English, most of his extended family (beyond his parents, his grandparents and uncle also moved) still speaks Russian around the house.
It is the uncle who ends up being the catalyst for the story: he marries a much younger woman from back home, who moves to Toronto with her 14-year-old daughter. That daughter, Natasha, is constantly feuding with her mother and is particularly unhappy about the move.
Since she is in a new country where she knows only a few people and does not speak the language, Mark’s mother assigns him with the duty to keep her company and show her around.
Even though she is two years younger than him, she is much worldlier. While Mark’s life pretty much revolves around going to keggers with his buddies and being a small-time pot dealer, he is pretty much cocooned in the suburban lifestyle. Therefore, he is rather shocked to learn that even at her young age she was a budding porn actress back home, posing for softcore photos and even doing a few adult videos.
As they become more and more friendly, Natasha is rather flirtatious, because that is just her way of fitting in. Mark is torn – she is his cousin (well, through marriage), but still he is a 16-year-old boy. Part of him wants to be her friend, part of him wants to be her savior, part of him wants something more.
At the same time, Natasha’s relationship with her mother is becoming more toxic, straining on the already unsteady relationship with Mark’s uncle. Natasha feels her mother is taking advantage of the guy, and starts pushing buttons that end up impacting everyone in the family.
The film is propelled forward by the strong performance by little-known actress Sasha K. Gordon as the title character. (This is her first starring role.) Gordon makes the character interesting and mostly likable even when she is being petulant, angry or just selfish. (From some of the things she does in several scenes, I am assuming the actress is well older than 14, but she does have that young, sullen look down pat.)
Ozerov is also very good as Mark, taking on a more commonplace, but still complicated character of a teen boy who is eventually completely confounded by a girl in his life, as well as his family.
Natasha is a bittersweet little story that has a smart and clear view of growing up and family dynamics. It’s never going to be a blockbuster, but real life is being lived here.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2017 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: April 27, 2017.