KLONDIKE – Review by Justina Walford

0 Flares 0 Flares ×

When we see expectant parents, we think of nurseries and colorful mobiles with the laughter of nervous parents emotionally in sync and awaiting their important day. But in the dark of Klondike’s opening scene, it doesn’t take long to realize that this typical expectant parents’ conversation is not what we expect.

The couple has a hole in their house. The environment is bleak and brown. And their conversation is interrupted by a loud boom.

It is July 2014 in eastern Ukraine, near the Russian border. That boom is the crash of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 which was caused by pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine. This child was conceived in peace and will be born in war. The potential birth of this child becomes not only an unthinkable chapter in the story of war but is also a symbol of Tolik and Irka’s tenuous grasp on hope.

So now we expect a drama with action and blood. But no. Again, we are turned around by the dry, absurdist wit of writer and director Maryna Er Gorbach, and we see this couple struggle with the mundane as much as with the mind games of politics and war.

Fear less for the oh-so-close-to-birth Irka and more for the debatable dim bulb that is Tolik. He loves his wife, but his fear makes every one of his choices the most dangerous moments of the film. Irka cleans the house after the crash and throughout the film as if her sole purpose is to create normality for her future child. Her only confidant worth talking to is Maya, the cow she struggles to milk – two women existing with their fear and grit.

While on the other side, Tolik debates weakly with his friend over the use of the one functioning car while his friend claims to know the world of war. “When the Russians come, we will live like nobles.” The men play their games in this war, mainly as pawns, while Irka continues on, knowing the only important action is the presence to survive.

The beauty of the film is that, as women, we can relate to Irka’s challenging relationship but also feel immense stress as we watch her navigate her life, no, navigate her survival, with nothing that resembles aid. I could not help but watch the whole film thinking of all the men who play their war games while women create the lives they end. And here is that message told to us in brutal, stunning clarity.

Er Gorbach, much like her character Irka, does not shy away from the intensity. We do not pull back from tension, pain, or awkward interactions. Not a moment of the film is shot in balanced light. It is either too bright or too dark as we squint through the scenes and lean in to hear key sentences. And it is purposeful. We are not to be comfortable in our voyeurism of war and survival. Our set is stark – Ukrainian farmland, plane wreckage, mourners as background to long, silent shots. We are here to feel the long, painful, and chaotic life of war. Every shot is carefully woven with characters in fight or flight and the constant battle for a level of morale and a modicum of morality.

The film is dedicated to the women and it is a perfect homage to the tenacity of Ukrainian women and all women of war who fight moment-to-moment battles with friend and foe as matriarchs and keepers of the temporal realm.


An award-winning writer of screen and stage, Justina Walford was also the Founder and Festival Director of Women Texas Film Festival for the life of the fest and she was programming director of Oxford Film Festival for two years. A lover of adrenaline-filled movies since she could understand the word “zombie,” she is particularly drawn to strong women’s voices in alternative genres such as horror, action, and science fiction.

0 Flares Twitter 0 Facebook 0 0 Flares ×
explore: | | | | | |