Review: Fresh storytelling and stirring images enrich the tragicomedy of ‘Brighton 4th’

Two men sit on a bench at the beach with buildings behind them in the movie “Brighton 4th”
Levan Tediashvili, left, and Giorgi Tabidze in the movie “Brighton 4th.”
(Kino Lorber)

Long serving as potent fodder for neorealist filmmakers, the immigrant experience is presented in a fresh, compelling context in Levan Koguashvili’s “Brighton 4th,” a gorgeously cinematic familial tragicomedy that constantly and movingly challenges expectations.

While the plot concerns the trip taken by long-retired Georgian champion wrestler Kakhi (Levan Tediashvili) from Tbilisi to Brooklyn, where his medical student son, Soso (Giorgi Tabidze), is saddled with gambling debts, Koguashvili and screenwriter Boris Frumin have no interest in telling a conventional fish-out-of-water story, especially one set in the heavily insulated enclave that is Brighton Beach.

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A place where spoken English takes a back seat to Russian, Georgian and Armenian, the tight-knit neighborhood confines its assimilation-adverse residents in something of a cultural limbo, existing in a protective vacuum that somehow feels rooted neither in American nor Russian soil.

Preferring to maintain his focus on the tender relationship between father and son, as well as the gently amusing camaraderie that exists among groups of males in both countries, Koguashvili challenges conventional notions of masculinity to often delightful effect.

It’s all stirringly photographed by twice-Oscar-nominated cinematographer Phedon Papamichael (“The Trial of the Chicago 7,” “Nebraska”), whose studied camera usually stays put, opting instead to have the characters, played by a colorful blend of professional and nonprofessional actors, enter the artfully composed frames.

The rewarding result, a triple award winner at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival (including the best actor nod to nonprofessional Tediashvili, himself an Olympic champion wrestler for the Soviet Union in 1972 and 1976), immerses rich storytelling in a milieu that’s steeped in local atmosphere so thick, you could slice it with a saber.


‘Brighton 4th’

In English, Georgian and Russian with English subtitles

Not rated

Running Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes

Playing: Starts Feb. 11, Laemmle Royal, West Los Angeles; Laemmle Town Center 5, Encino; Laemmle Playhouse 7, Pasadena