Life. It is a journey filled with beauty and pain that is easy to romanticize through distant memories. Gemma, an Italian professor, returns to Sarajevo at the invitation of her old friend Gojco. It was the town where she met her child’s father, Diego, an American photographer. The journey turns out to be more than she bargained for, as repressed memories come vividly to life when she visits the neighborhood that she once called home; a town now being rebuilt from the ashes of the war she left behind.
There are some magnificent performances in the film; Emile Hirsch’s complex portrayal of Diego is both charming and deeply off-putting. An abusive childhood and a passion for beauty birthed an almost manic personality that even Gemma finds too intense at times. Gemma, portrayed by Penelope Cruz, is also a damaged character, whose pain and loss started perhaps further back than she originally realized. Their brokenness brings them closer, and it also drives them apart. The characters do not have a typical relationship by any means, but their chemistry is enchanting. Adnan Haskovic also gives a great performance as Gojco; a mutual friend and vibrant, free-spirited poet who loves life, family and friends.
There’s no doubt about it, Twice Born is a haunting film that manages to stave off any twists that might have been included only to bring comfort to viewers. The film carries stories of loss in a war-torn city, but the romantic tragedy manages to stay just as tragic despite the nearby issues of life and death. The movie manages to be simultaneously dark and lighthearted. Its accompanying soundtrack is nice too; understated and silent when need be. The same goes for the script; what isn’t said speaks volumes. The words that are spoken are either eloquent and appropriate or deeply disconcerting while managing to somehow remain beautiful.
The storyline is intriguing. It unfolds at a good pace, keeping viewers interested, but not giving the story away too fast. The opening shot is also wonderful. It is a split screen shot that sets the tone for the entire film. The film is an amazing accomplishment that is presented delicately enough to drive drama lovers wild. It makes skin crawl and hearts swell, and the viewer begins to understand that the good moments are what get each of the characters through the tougher times, and that the beauty in life exists simply to alleviate the pain.