The problems of two people shouldn’t amount to a hill of beans compared to genocide by starvation, but that’s all that really matters in this soggy historical tale with delusions of being another Schindler’s List. Set in 1932-33, it centers on a Ukrainian village where the romance between gentle artist Yuri (Max Irons) and his beloved Natalka (Samantha Barks) collides with the Soviet government’s attempts to starve the burgeoning Ukrainian independence movement into submission. They are, of course, eventually separated by the tumult of history, and director George Mendeluk tries to convey the significance of that history with images of executed dissidents and mass graves. But he also can’t resist laying on the melodrama with a trowel, leading to scenes like Stalin doing everything but twirl his mustache as he plans the decimation of the Ukrainian people, or an unintentionally hilarious bit with Natalka slipping hallucinogenic mushrooms into the borscht of the village’s Soviet commissar. The bland central relationship is supposed to hold it all together, but if the sweeping guerrilla battles and other horrors are all meant to lead up to their reunion, it hardly seems worth the effort.
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