Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Angelina Jolie can do it all. Just her right leg, which she exposed at the Oscars ceremony on Sunday night, was sufficient to send the Internet in a frenzy, and a spoof twitter account for the limb has already gathered more than 20,000 followers in just a couple of days.
The Academy Award winning actress now tries her hand at directing, and while the outcome isn’t quite perfect, it tackles issues that few Hollywood productions dare to touch, and is still a remarkably bold and assured debut. And did we mention she, who is mother to a bunch of kids and Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, also wrote the script?
The story is set during the Bosnian conflict of the 90s, as it follows the Romeo and Juliet relationship between a Serbian man, Danijel (Goran Kostic), and a Muslim woman, Ajla (Zana Marjanovic), in war torn Bosnia.
Ajla is taken prisoner when the conflict starts, and ends up in a camp run by Danijel. He has to conceal his feelings for her from the rest of his men, as they rape and make use of the other Muslim woman prisoners, he protects her from harm.
When Danijel is sent to another camp, Ajla, using a tip supplied by Danijel, manages to run away and find a group of freedom fighters. She allows herself to be recaptured in order to get close once more to Danijel, seemingly in order to assassinate him.
Undoubtedly, the story of the film is reminiscent of others, and the constantly shifting relationship between the two lovers runs aground in the third act. Ajla fades in the background and becomes too passive, almost a victim in the scheme of things, while Danijel’s story takes centerstage. There’s almost a Lust, Caution vibe but Jolie lacks Ang Lee’s control and subtlety.
The ending of “Blood and Honey” also leaves a whole bunch of loose ends dangling, particularly with the other characters surrounding the relationship.
Ultimately, Jolie’s concerns shine forth, particularly the brutal treatment that women underwent during the war. The Bosnian war was not a conflict that received much attention in America, due to its complicated nature, but Jolie has boldly met it on head-on with this film. She’s helped by a great cast.
Marjanovic is vulnerable and strong, willing to bend but unwilling to break. Kostic plays the unpredictable Danijel with confidence as he plays a dangerous game. The rest of the supporting cast are superb, particularly Rade Serbedzija, who play’s Danijel’s father.
Undoubtedly, the script could have been tweaked to be tighter, but the message of war and the toll it takes on love, as well as the atrocities of war on women stand out. For a first feature film effort, it’s a powerful piece of work, and Jolie didn’t even need to expose any body parts to make an impression. One is sure her next few films are just going to get better.