Bitter Harvest | Screen | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Bitter Harvest

A melodrama set in 1930s Ukraine combines romance with rebellion

George Mendeluk’s film is an old-fashioned melodrama set amid a tumultuous historical time, the Holodomor, in 1930s Ukraine. Under Stalin’s direction, the region is being forcefully brought into the Soviet fold. Family farms are collectivized, religion is being stamped out (though valuable icons are happily seized) and most of the local produce is confiscated. Resistance brings further hardship, or even death. One family of notable fighters is caught in the struggle — the lionized grandfather (Terence Stamp) fumes and plots in the increasingly desperate village, while his artistic grandson (Max Irons) looks for work in Kiev and pines for the village beauty (Samantha Barks) he left behind. Eventually he gets woke to the terrible situation (a stay in a gulag is quite convincing), and returns home to fight for Ukraine. It’s the sort of historical melodrama that is often well served by the epic treatment — such as A-list actors, spectacular cinematography and a meaty script that takes the time to create emotional involvement. None of that happens here, so while Mendeluk’s film is well intentioned and mildly intriguing, it falls well short of grandness.

Starts Fri., Feb. 24. AMC Loews Waterfront