Esma’s Secret (Grbavica) Review

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A bosnian woman, living in Sarajevo, and her daughter Sara are doing their best to cope with the aftermath of the Balkan War with dignity.


A single mother struggles to make ends meet in this festival favourite set in post-war Sarajevo. As Esma works tables in a nightclub, her tomboy daughter Sara is befriending a schoolmate who likes to play with loaded guns. There’s a touching tenderness between mother and daughter, and Sara’s excitement about a costly school trip adds urgency to Esma’s toils.

Both characters are followed closely to quietly intriguing effect, the exact sources of their troubles very gradually revealed. The final revelation — the titular secret — is moving but hurried, but Jasmila Zbanic’s debut still offers up some stunning scenes, supported by a compelling air of authenticity.

Moving and perceptive drama with strong performances from the leads.