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Letters From The East Review

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A woman faces up to a difficult past that crossed political and social divides.

★★★★★

Having escaped from Estonia in her father's arms during the Russian advance of 1944, Anna (Froling) is forced to confront her past when he dies, leaving her letters and cards from her mother, whom he'd always insisted had been killed in the war.

Anna decides to return to a homeland where Glasnost is reviving the slumbering national pride and where all the evidence points to her mother's death. There she meets the mysterious Rein (Womack), who she at first assumes is a KGB agent but, after he saves her life, is forced to trust and let him help in her search. As they come up against a series of dead ends, Anna remembers shards of her childhood in horrific flashbacks. She begins to realise her father had good reason to hush up the past.

With the sheer weight of plot to fit in, writer/director Grieve tacks on some pretty implausible romance and has his make-up team forever on hand to produce buckets of tears, but somehow the emotion remains at arm's length. And try as she does, Froling never quite gets under her character's skin enough to really be convincing, while Womack's raison d'etre is never entirely clear beyond being a stock male presence.

Certainly it has a strong sense of purpose and manages to convey the struggles of a nation in a powerful and moving way, but the lack of warmth is hard to ignore in a film which skims the issues it should be addressing instead of fleshing them out in a meaningful way.

Grieve relies on a fairly dry narrative which fails to build more than a superficial human dimension to proceedings.

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