The Forgiveness of BloodWritten by on March 9th, 2012
Should a son pay for his father’s sins? The answer is an unequivocal “yes” in The Forgiveness of Blood, Joshua Marston’s follow-up to 2004’s Maria Full of Grace. Though born in California, Marston made an Albanian film, which he co-wrote with freshman scripter Andamion Murataj. Not much goes on in the story; if the script were any more drawn out, the cast would be moving in slow motion. But the kernel of the central conflict is unique enough to keep the film compelling.
When the film opens, Mark (Refet Abazi) and his eldest son, Nik (Tristan Halilaj), are taking a shortcut on the way home after a day of delivering bread, the family’s only source of income. They need to move stones to get through; the path has been blocked by the landowner, Sokol (Veton Osmani), even though in past generations the neighbors were friendly. One day a fight breaks out, Sokol ends up dead, and Mark needs to go on the run. According to Albanian tradition, however, the murder warrants a blood feud, meaning that Sokol’s family has every right to kill, if not Mark, a male in his family. Now Nik’s the one in hiding.
Nik is pulled out of school to essentially become a recluse, playing video games, sending video messages to his crush, and increasingly becoming moody as his isolation drags on. Meanwhile, his sister, Rudina (Sindi Lacej), needs to forget school as well so she can continue delivering bread to maintain the family income. She’s also miserable about it and is occasionally shunned out in the merchant world, but Rudina becomes quite industrious when she sees an opportunity to make more money.
And that’s about it. Throughout, there’s a chance of a ceasefire, but it seems a perilous thing that must be negotiated just right and therefore an action the family is hesitant to take. Mostly the film comprises the danger that Nik feels every time he passes a window or, stupidly, slips out to go see his friends. Because of the small house, Nik’s danger is everyone else’s, too; there’s distressing scene in which shots are fired and Nik’s toddler brother nearly gets hit.
Marston makes the household all too real — you would never know this film wasn’t directed by an Albanian — with mostly rural trappings and concerns outside of the feud such as how many minutes they have left on the family cell phone, on which they occasionally get messages from Dad. Watching and waiting, however, is the crux of the story. And though it’s often fraught with tension, the film’s slow pace may leave you as stir-crazy as Nik.