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Review: In Kosovo drama 'The Marriage,' the deep-seated pain of love and war surfaces

Review: In Kosovo drama 'The Marriage,' the deep-seated pain of love and war surfaces
Alban Ukaj and Adriana Matoshi in the movie "The Marriage." (Uncork'd Entertainment)

In Kosovar filmmaker Blerta Zeqiri’s debut feature “The Marriage,” bride and groom are both trying to tamp down certain emotions before their upcoming wedding. Anita (Adriana Matoshi), one of the many Kosovans with missing loved ones from the war, would like to suspend feelings of loss and concentrate on tying the knot.

Serious-looking Bekim (Alban Ukaj) has unresolved issues too, but they’re now in front of him in the form of surprise visitor Nol (Genc Salihu), his secret gay ex from when they lived under Bekim’s parents’ roof together as close friends. Hard-drinking Nol, explained to Anita as an old pal, brings an intemperateness out in the closeted Bekim, but as their romance rekindles, also a goofy tenderness he’s kept concealed for years.

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Zeqiri’s gratefully non-farcical approach to a well-worn scenario in LGBT drama is to not make it about melodramatic moments — there’s tension and deception, but also passion and a wedding — but rather a cold ache born of equal parts internalized pain and battle-scarred trauma.

Flashbacks lay some of the groundwork, and in Bekim’s and Nol’s case, it’s to a night during the war when a pair of young men hiding their love realize, with a few gallows laughs, that hatred of who they are would easily unite Serbs and Albanians. As the triangle of sadness shifts to the men’s situation, the loss of Anita as a central figure is also the movie’s loss. But overall this is a solid portrait of time’s effect on what we miss, and how we miss.

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‘The Marriage’

In Albanian with English subtitles

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes

Playing: Starts Dec. 7, Laemmle Glendale

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