Review by Sean Boelman
Sometimes a country does not submit their best film as their representative for the Academy Award for Best International Film, but rather, one that is merely good and has gotten a lot of attention on the festival circuit. That seems to be the case with Hive, a movie which garnered much acclaim at Sundance for its good intentions even though it doesn’t live up to its potential.
The film tells the story of a woman whose husband went missing in the war as she teams up with a group of other women to start a small business, much to the dismay of her patriarchal community. Blerta Basholli’s script is based on an extraordinary true story, but the way in which it is written is disappointingly standard and conventional.
If Basholli’s movie should be praised for one thing, it should be that it very openly discusses these issues in a way that is much more nuanced than a lot are. Obviously, restrictively patriarchal society conventions such as these are a bad thing, but Basholli also acknowledges how difficult it is to change such a fundamental misconception.
The pacing of the film is also rather ineffective. Ultimately, this is a story that likely would have made for a better short than a feature because even with a runtime under ninety minutes, it wears out its welcome rather quickly. Many of the conversations in the movie are very well-written, but it is not consistent enough to hold interest.
There is no doubt that the person who inspired the character of the protagonist is an exceptional figure in real-life, but this doesn’t translate into a compelling narrative arc. It should be empowering to watch this woman fight back against the patriarchy, but it feels too similar to so many other characters that it isn’t all that effective.
Yllka Gashi’s performance in the leading role is also very standard, which is disappointing given the fact that this film hinges on the central character having a powerful impact on the audience. A majority of the issues with her performance seem to boil down more to a lack of opportunity in the script than anything else.
The movie also isn’t as impressive as one would expect for something gaining so much acclaim from festivals. There is some nice cinematography, and the blocking is strong as a whole, but the direction isn’t as strong as it should have taken to win the Directing Award at Sundance. It’s consistently competent, but largely lacks creativity and uniqueness.
Hive is a decent film, but it doesn’t live up to the hype that it has built from all of this recognition. Ultimately, it seems like most people are praising the idea of the movie more so than what the film actually is.
Hive is now playing in theaters.