Time Out says
A boy grows to manhood under the watchful eye of a mysterious cult leader in this underwhelming drama
Somewhere deep inside this self-consciously obscure drama about a mysterious personality cult, there’s a fascinating study of exploitation and emotional abuse struggling, like its central character, to force its way out into the light.
Our hero is Alexander (Jeremy Chabriel), a boy on the verge of puberty who has spent his entire life being raised, cared for and guided by Gregori (Vincent Cassel), a seemingly benign father figure who rescues abused women and inducts them and their offspring into his ever-growing community of happy, hard-working outsiders. Never mind that Gregori will brook no backchat, or that he occasionally sends Alexander out to commit cold-blooded murder: under his protection, they can all be safe from the cruelty of the world outside.
It’s a strong setup, poorly handled. Australian first-time director Ariel Kleiman is so intent on keeping things artfully vague – and keeping his audience mystified – that, despite a handful of bewitching scenes (a series of kids’ karaoke sessions are strangely affecting), the film never really takes hold. Shot in Georgia (the former Soviet republic, not the US state) but set in an unnamed city where people speak English with an unpredictable variety of European accents, this is a film trying so hard to upend expectations that it loses itself in the process. The ending is particularly frustrating: halfway through a scene, the film simply stops.
Cast and crew