We follow a young Ukrainian artist named Yuri (Max Irons) during this genocidal time in his homeland, trying to help his village survive famine and slaughter by the Bolshevik army. Driven to join the resistance and becoming the fighter his father wanted him to be, Yuri overcomes imprisonment and torture to join his childhood sweetheart in the fight for a free Ukraine.
Violent and brutal, the setting of 'Bitter Harvest’ gets under the skin. The futile attempts by harmless farmers to fight off the Bolshevik forces taking their food are made even more gut-wrenching when you see the utter disregard the Bolsheviks have for Ukrainian lives; in one scene, running a woman over with their horses as if she was mere dirt in the street just because she couldn’t get out of the way quickly enough.
Overall 'Bitter Harvest' filled me with regret and sadness. Not, as intended, due to witnessing millions of people starving to death, but the waste of opportunity at giving this important story the attention it deserves. I want this film to be great, to be a must see showcase of what happened, but I feel it does a disservice to this rather important event in history. The overly melodramatic script is its undoing, eliciting laughter where gravitas should reign. 'Bitter Harvest' doesn’t come close to the epic it wants to be, and wanting to be that epic ultimately sets it up to fail. Kudos to Mendeluk for bringing this story and its events to the big screen. I just can’t help but wish for better execution in bringing this story to life.
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