Review: Hive

Written and directed by Blerta Basholli, Fahrije’s husband has been missing since the war in Kosovo. She sets up her own small business to provide for her kids, but as she fights against a patriarchal society that does not support her, she faces a crucial decision. Starring: Yllka Gashi, Çun Lajçi, Aurita Agushi, Kumrije Hoxha, Adriana Matoshi, Molikë Maxhuni and Blerta Ismaili.

Only a very small portion of the conflict happening around the world makes it into the western headlines, so most viewers are probably walking into Hive unknowing of its true beginnings. A lot of films benefit from walking in blind but a little previous knowledge in this case is only going to make you respect this story even more. Fahrije (Gashi) is a classic matriarch, hiding her pain and suffering so well that she’s accused of being uncaring. In reality, she’s doing her best to look ahead, to create a future for herself in a world, without her husband, that resents any independence of women. It’s an inspiring story of pragmatism and strength, she’s a remarkable woman, the amount of insulting, threatening and even assaulting behaviour she has to put up with is more than enough to break anyone’s spirit.

It’s a story full of tension, as grounded and real as you could possibly want and impressively unconcerned with feeding into martyrdom or cheap violence. Blerta Basholli creates a strong visual, it’s everyday but packed with sincerity and weight. There’s a genuinely compelling nature to the style of its palette, hitting the perfect note. The progression is slow but purposeful, it’s clever not to rush through the struggle, to let the punishing quality of daily life land. The result of that being the pace itself doesn’t actually feel slow, helped by the occasional interval of swift low blows to Fahrije’s life.

Yllka Gashi gives a skilfully understated performance, it’s full of emotion without needing to be overt. Gashi easily conveys the unenviable burden laid upon Fahrije, a classic situation of damned if you do and damned if you don’t, she can either please the local patriarchy or take charge to keep her family clothed and fed. The pain she’s suffering with such pressures and her missing husband is beyond tangible, connecting together each element of the film and enhancing its sincerity. There’s also a great ensemble of characters behind her, especially the other women of the community, but there’s no doubt that Gashi’s performance is the heart of the film.

Hive is both a heartbreaking tale of suffering and discrimination, and an inspiring example of refusing to quit and finding ingenious resolutions to your problems, in spite of adversity. There’s a genuine experience of frustration watching the misogyny at work against Fahrije, and Yllka Gashi wonderfully captures the hardship and anger that go along with fighting against it. Blerta Basholli cleverly chose to keep this film as firmly in reality with an everyday atmosphere as possible, allowing its emotional, tense and moving story to really drive home.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯ | 8/10

In UK & Irish cinemas 18th March 2022

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