As a re-creation of the events that led to the real-life discovery of more than 300 human bodies, Sahkanaga doesn’t exactly want for a gripping subject. Writer/director John Henry Summerour also was not necessarily wrong for juxtaposing cloistered teenager Paul’s (Trevor Neuhoff) accidental discovery of the bodies in a backwoods crematorium with his kittenishly innocent relationship with Lyla (Kristin Rievley). But beyond some cursory details, Summerour doesn’t really capture what life was like for locals of the titular Georgian town after the shocking events of February 2002. The town is not the film’s main subject, though Summerour does render it with relatively vivid detail in unostentatious scenes shot in the local cemetery, an abandoned bridge, and a drainage ditch. What Summerour doesn’t capture as well are the panic and emotional upheaval that Paul’s poems and tentative interactions with Lyla only hint at—one of the reasons the film feels flimsy rather than delicate, lacking strong performances or psychological nuance.
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