By: Nick Ferwerda
To my surprise, Bitter Harvest – a film that was supposed to be about the Holodomor Genocide in the early 1930’s – is actually a mediocre love story. I didn’t say it was a good surprise.
The film takes place in between the two World Wars in the Ukraine as an ambitious boy, Yuri (The Host’s Max Irons, who also narrates the story), embarks on a journey to save his lover, Natalka (Samantha Barks), during the historic mass slaughter by Joseph Stalin (Gary Oliver) and the Soviet Army. He’s encouraged to be her saviour during a trip to Kiev when he notices the state of Holodormer is getting worse. As the grandson of a famous Cossak warrior (Terence Stamp), Yuri is aware he has big shoes to fill when accepting challenges.
Bitter Harvest contains difficult subject matter to adapt for a film. Optimistic screenwriters Richard Bachynsky Hoover and director George Mendeluk attempt to succeed, but their finished script misses the mark. The dialogue is subpar, but their negligence to fully represent historical events is the clincher. Bitter Harvest uses its talent to little avail as well; summoning stale performances from Irons and Barks, and dull turns from everyone else.
The only element movie goers are able to appreciate about Mendeluk’s movie is the amazing cinematography by Douglas Milsome (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves). Unfortunately for Mendeluk, Bitter Harvest can’t survive on visuals alone.
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Nick Ferwerda: @NickFerwerda