Julia Blue (2018)
Julia Blue (2018)

Genre: Romantic Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 26 min.

Release Date: April 6th, 2018 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Roxy Toporowych Actors: Polina Snisarenko, Dima Yaroshenko




ulia Karpenko (Polina Snisarenko) was born in 1991 – the same year Ukraine freed itself from the Soviet Union and became independent. At 13, she shared the first revolution; then another at the age of 22. Her fate is once again intertwined with her beloved country, as she attends classes in Kyiv for mass media and German proficiency during 2015 – one year into the war with Russia, which kicked off with the invasion and annexation of Crimea. Amid the political turmoil, her passion for photojournalism springs, allowing her to document all the little beauties of her surroundings – a homeland she loves dearly. And she hopes to get into a good school to pursue her dreams. In between studying, she bides her time volunteering at the military hospital, visiting recuperating soldiers, as well as by picking up shifts at cafe Dom Kino (earning her a shared “codename” with that shop).

Meanwhile, Vlad (Dima Yaroshenko), nicknamed “English” because he can speak it, has just arrived in Kyiv, having spent ten months on the front lines. He returns with only superficial wounds – the most notable being a bandaged hand. But he can’t return to his hometown of Donetsk, as it’s embroiled in constant artillery fire and combat. Despite few external injuries, he suffers from PTSD, visualized by flashbacks to the war, and is plagued with regret that he can’t continue fighting alongside his comrades. Coincidentally, he’s the newest member of the group of soldiers visited by Julia – and his road to recovery just might lie with her.

As the two young people spend time together, bonding over their joint plights – including the upheaval of normal life for protests against corruption, and their willingness to fight for independence – they begin to fall in love. It’s a fast-moving romance, but not particularly original. In its infancy, it’s filled with walks near the Maidan, evenings on the beach, and staring deeply into one another’s eyes. A glimmer of conflict arrives when Julia gets a scholarship to a photography school in Germany, which she won’t trade for anyone, and when she visits her sister Maryanka near the Carpathians, where longtime friend Dima still resides, introducing an awkward love triangle (though she doesn’t give Dima much attention). Additionally, English’s mental traumas threaten to ruin his time with Julia.

The plot itself moves slowly and predictably, offering few moments for surprises. It’s an unusually quiet picture, matching its plain, flat characters. Even during an overlong wedding ceremony and reception sequence, there’s a notable lack of drama or revelations; there are no rambunctious outbursts or unchecked tempers.

Far more interesting than the love story are the historical components and viewpoints from life in Ukraine, which are rarely seen by U.S. audiences, save for tidbits from newscasts. The way in which the war affects everyone there is striking; it isn’t a struggle experienced only by the government or the military. It’s never far from people’s minds, regardless of their age, pervading even Dima’s music (he’s an aspiring rapper). In the end, as emotions fail to rise to a cinematic degree, the film simply ends, resolving virtually nothing and marking the lead characters’ union as little more than an affair. “Julia Blue” clearly isn’t as intent on telling a story as it is merely depicting a brief chapter in two lovers’ lives, set in a fragile, unnerving time, intersecting momentarily before thoughts of the future keep them journeying along separate paths – perhaps as some sort of commentary on Ukraine’s continuing, tragic, uncertain stability.

– Mike Massie

  • 3/10