Global curiosity shouldn't be pooh-poohed, so consider it praiseworthy that Joshua Marston, a Beverly Hills--born indie director, has now followed up his drug-mule debut, Maria Full of Grace, with a similarly foreign thriller, this Albania-set drama about a blood feud spiraling out of control. Never mind the language barrier---Marston certainly didn't---because the tensions here are universal, particularly as seen through the eyes of teenage Nik (Halilaj), a hardworking kid more interested in the cute girl at school than in acting tough. But a squabble among his elders over inherited land leads to harsh words, a mortal stabbing and the enforcement of an ancient code of justice.
The movie's exploration of the 15th-century Kanun, Albania's set of revenge laws that make innocent Nik a target of the opposing family (but only if he leaves his home), is both fascinating and a hindrance. Cautiously, we're housebound with our hero---sort of a drag. Even as his sister (Lacej) picks up the slack of the family's delivery business, The Forgiveness of Blood never sheds its own sense of strandedness---house arrest, by and large, being a terrible premise for a movie. (For a differing opinion, see our review of This Is
Not a Film.) No matter how sincere, Marston's effort also suffers from the lack of a burning lead as he had in Maria's Catalina Sandino Moreno. Fierce acting is a virtue you don't have to travel the world to find---or to lose sight of.
Follow Joshua Rothkopf on Twitter: @joshrothkopf
Watch the trailer