1988 Armenian tragedy plays out in ‘Earthquake’

“Earthquake” proves an earnest, deeply felt drama set against the 1988 calamity that devastated a large swath of northern Armenia (then part of the Soviet Union) and caused more than 25,000 deaths, Gary Goldstein writes in the Los Angeles Times.

According to the author, what the film lacks in high-octane disaster-movie thrills it makes up for with its focus on personal relationships, acts of heroism and a capable visual sense.

The script by Hrant Barsegyan, Arsen Danielyan, Aleksey Gravitskiy and Sergey Yudakov reflects true stories of rescue and survival culled from documentation and the accounts of eyewitnesses. The result is a crisscross of credible characters whose life-and-death journeys help frame the film’s gripping, often grim narrative.

These vivid folks include a vengeful young man reunited with the driver who caused the car crash that, years ago, killed his parents; an older couple at odds over their unmarried pregnant daughter, a gravely injured mother searching for her missing child, an unruly band of looters, a selfless Russian truck driver and other desperate souls.

“Director Sarik Andreasyan confidently juggles the demands of his large cast, the precarious action scenes and a clear commitment to veracity. The earthquake and its ruin, although set in the Armenian city of Leninakan (now called Gyumri), were effectively re-created on an abandoned Moscow factory site. (Pre-earthquake scenes were shot in Gyumri.),” the article reads.

“Sporadic dips into melodrama, some on-the-nose dialogue and acting, and an occasionally intrusive score hinder but don’t negate this ambitious film’s power and conviction,” the author concludes.

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