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‘Stop-Zemlia’ review: Coming of age film from Ukraine offers something different

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Stop-Zemlia has a documentary feel to it. High school students interviewed at their graduation reflect back on their last year. The story follows a girl named Masha and  how she falls in love and out of her comfort zone. 

There is an immediate sense of familiarity. The soon to be adults talk about the meaning of love and life after high school. There is fear mixed with excitement. The structure is the perfect set up for a grand romantic gesture. 

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Except Stop-Zemlia never goes in that direction. The script is much more interested in capturing  genuine teenage experiences. The film is more The Breakfast Club than Sixteen Candles. Unfortunately, it lacks the charm of either. 

The movie has a matter of factness that prevents audiences from getting too close to its characters. That being said, Stop-Zemlia is able to tackle a number of relevant themes without minimizing their importance. Similar movies place getting to know the person over understanding the message. Director Kateryna Gornostai puts the issues front and center. 

This is a refreshing departure for a coming of age movie. Stop-Zemlia is not about outrageous plans. It concentrates on the day to day activities of teenagers. Masha and her friends seeing themselves as nonconformists is as stereotypical as things get. Even then, they are not tropes of the genre. This gives more gravity to everything. 

This sensitivity to authenticity has a downside. The film deals with a number of characters and has a tendency to lose its way. Stop-Zemlia ends up running long. Gornostai captures the realness of being on the brink of adulthood, but takes a little too much time  doing it.

Stop-Zelima comes to select theaters and VOD January 21

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