The Immigration Experience
Mark Berman (Alex Ozerov ) is a 16-year-old and lives in Toronto who is spending his summer reading Nietzsche and selling pot His mother, Bella, (Deanna Dezmari) gives him a task: when his uncle Fima remarries, Mark’s supposed to look after his new step cousin, 14-year-old Natasha (Sasha K. Gordon), who doesn’t speak any English.
Mark at first was annoyed by his mother’s request but he soon starts to fall for Natasha, and they begin a forbidden relationship. Directed and written by
David Bezmozgis, “Natasha” is a stunning film. Mark and Natasha obviously can’t ever have the relationship they want making this heartbreaking to watch. We know it cannot end well and seeing the inevitable happen is incredibly difficult and moving.
Mark seems to be inherently lazy preferring to make weekly deliveries for Rufus, his suburban Toronto drug hook-up rather than take a legit summer job. It turns out the fourteen year-old Natasha is more sexually experienced than Mark who is something of a nerd. He is a bit nebbish and she is more than a little forward. At times, Mark seems to shrink into the background as the passive Berman and we sense that the film is making a comment about hungry, aggressive first generation Russia-survivors like Natasha. Bezmozgis is giving us an intelligent and evocative portrait of immigrant life in Canada. The movie plays out on the rich backdrop of the Eastern European (primarily Russian) Jewish community in Toronto.
As Natasha and Mark fall for each other, deep secrets of Natasha’s life in Russia come to light and several family conflicts threaten the relationship. We see here the differences between the “new” immigrants (Natasha’s Mother) and those who’ve had time to establish themselves in the “New World” (Mark’s family). These contrasts are brilliantly juggled throughout the film since it is the differences which tend to provide the greatest conflict and they do so in with “old world” values which tend to creep into the proceedings.
“Natasha” is a love story within a coming-of-age tale that is as bitter as it is sweet. Visually, Bezmozgis uses simple, but dramatic and resonant shots. Darkness wends its way through this moving, romantic story and this makes the light seem brighter than it needs to be.
I understand that “Natasha” is the first film to explore the little known Russian-born Jewish subculture in Toronto that. It is where many immigrants from the late 70s to the early 90s went when fleeing anti-Semitism and other miseries. Bezmozgis was one such immigrant. He, and his family came to Toronto from Latvia when he was six-years-old The Latvian native, who arrived in Toronto with his family when he was six-years-old and has stated that some of the film is autobiographical.