IDFA Review: Bitter Love



If you’ve ever been lucky enough to experience a holiday romance, you’ll know that there’s nothing quite like it. Caught up in the moment. Just the two of you. Without a care in the world or a thought for what that rendezvous will mean in the long or medium term. Time stands still. A cruise is the perfect storm for such feelings. A break from the realities of everyday life. An environment where things happen within a bubble.

In Jerzy Sladkowski’s new documentary Bitter Love he follows a group of passengers as they slowly cruise down the Volga. Single people soon mix and talk as if they’ve been lifelong friends. Romance blossoms in the safety of this self-contained universe. Couples embark to spend time together and use the opportunity to delve into their relationships. It’s as though time is frozen. Whatever happens on the liner, stays on the liner? Unless its lifechanging, of course.

Bitter Love is a rather touching study of the love, friendships and regrets of a set of passengers sailing away from their troubles. They’re remarkably unperturbed by Sladkowski’s camera and the candour and intimacy of their conversations is what makes the film tick. They’re willing to offer up their greatest hopes and fear because like this suspension of time, it doesn’t quite seem real. Bitter Love is a fascinating, thoughtful and melancholic treatise on life.

Bitter Love screens at IDFA.

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