Anti-Romance / a review of Blind Dates

“I don’t like this online thing”, says Sandro. “Do you have other options?”, responds his friend Iva. In modern-day Georgia, 40-something-year-old men struggle to find love like everywhere else.

Sandro and Iva are waiting for two ladies from Gori who they found through an online dating site. Pokerfaced actor Andro Sakhvarelidze, who portrays the wimpy but gentle Sandro, so effectively sets up an absurdist tone in this opening scene of Blind Dates that you’ll never see its ending coming. But it’s director Levan Koguashvili’s mischievous storytelling and understated humor that pull us into this surprising journey, which develops into a heartwarming drama about the differences between looking for and finding love.

Iva, a former soccer player-turned-coach, pushes his friend to find a girlfriend. Sandro also gets lambasted by his parents: girls from the provinces have no manners, and girls who play soccer are too muscular. But the complaints don’t seem to affect Sandro. So what does move him? When Iva and Sandro walk into Iva’s favorite soccer mom Manana on a weekend trip, they enjoy some drinks on a rainy seaside terrace under a large piece of plastic. Koguashvili revels in emphasizing how anti-romance, in unexpected places, can actually create romance. Ironically, Sandro’s parents are at that very moment awaiting his return in the company of several young and eligible women.

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But when Sandro en Manana start to spend more time together, he’ll find a problem he certainly wasn’t looking for: Manana’s husband Tengo will be released from jail earlier than expected and wants to come home. Sandro’s kindness, and love for Manana, goes beyond his own desires, and he drives Manana to the prison to pick op Tengo. Things only get worse from there.

The sheer genius of Blind Dates is that Koguashvili shows you how comedy is not always in the acting, but instead can hinge on the ways fate plays and interferes with our expectations. As we all know, good men usually don’t get the girl. In Blind Dates, Sandro wins a few girls too many, but still doesn’t end up a winner. NH

Written for the festival daily of the Golden Apricot Film Festival,  2014 Yerevan (Armenia) / daily #6– 19th of july 2014

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