WIFF Review: Rock. Paper. Grenade

Following the collapse of the USSR, Ukraine regained its independence in 1991. While it was seen as a fresh new beginning, declaring itself politically neutral, as with many of the former Soviet states it struggled to adapt to capitalism. The transition to a market economy has been a bumpy one and, even before Putin’s invasion began in 2014, it was one of the poorest countries in Europe. Rock. Paper. Grenade tells the story of one boy’s journey into adulthood.

Tymophiy (Andriy Cherednyk) lives in a provincial town with his mother Olga (Anastasiya Karpenko), while his father (Andrey Isaenko) is largely absent. His life takes a turn when his grandmother (Halyna Veretelnyk-Stephanova) moves in with her partner, Felix (Yuriy Izdryk). A veteran from Afghanistan and an alcoholic, the boy sees him as the role model he really doesn’t have. Their relationship evolves and changes as he enters his teens (Vladyslav Baliuk).

Rock. Paper. Grenade is an impressive coming-of-age story where the character of Tymophiy grows along with his country. Indeed, it’s this symmetry which is most striking. Based on an autobiographical novel written by her husband Artem Chekh, Iryna Tsilyk’s (The Earth Is Blue As an Orange) debut narrative feature is superbly done. There are a number of impressive performances, but it’s the way she captures the moment which really stays with you. Charting the history of post-Soviet Ukraine through the eyes of ordinary citizens.  

Rock. Paper. Grenade screened at Warsaw International Film Festival.

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