Levan Akin offers up a swooning gay romance as the centerpiece from which all of his other ideas radiate.
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And Then We Danced works because of a tender and heartfelt performance by Levan Gelbakhiani.
No good performance can hide the fact that what happens during roughly the first hour is perhaps beautifully laid out and told but also extremely familiar. There is an expectation that Akin, also credited with the screenplay, will somehow step it up in the second half with a new twist or unexpected insight. But quite the opposite happens, as the narrative becomes both more melodramatic and erratic.
The cast perform with conviction, and the whole movie is attractively, solidly put together. But its dramatic components, fraught as they are, are tepidly delivered.
The dancing is mostly depicted in practice and rehearsal in a featureless room, captured in raggedly cut handheld sequences that betray the movie’s modest means. If Akin knows how to direct better than this, he rarely shows it. But if he never displays a knack for visualizing the physicality of dance (more impressive rehearsal footage can be found in about five seconds on YouTube), he does a decent job of conveying the frustration and passion it inspires in Merab (Levan Gelbakhiani, a professional dancer).
The result is at once empowering . . . heart-wrenching . . . and inspirational.
Gifted as both a thrilling dancer and a nuanced actor, Gelbakhiani’s magnetic presence goes a long way toward papering over some of the more timeworn plot elements . . . and the film should make audiences clamor for more vehicles that feature his seemingly effortless ability to radiate joy.
It’s one of the year’s best gay films.
An instantly engaging tale of a young male dancer’s sexual awakening in contemporary Tbilisi, And Then We Danced is personal and political, romantic and educational.
Manages to tell an over-familiar coming out story with sensitivity, and a Georgian accent.