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Crossing Film Review: A Detailed Tapestry

a woman dances in the film Crossing by Levan Akin

Levan Akin’s latest drama, Crossing, is a glorious ode to the decency of humans and the richness of Istanbul.

Director: Levan Akin
Genre: Drama
Run Time: 105′
Theatrical Release: July 19, 2024 in select US theaters and in UK & Irish cinemas
MUBI Release: August 30, 2024

With the masterpiece And Then We Danced (2019), Levan Akin set the bar very high for his next film. Whilst Crossing doesn’t reach those same heady heights as that one—perhaps unsurprising considering And Then We Danced is one of the best dramas of the 2010s—it still maintains Akin’s status as one of the best and most engaging directors working today.

Crossing bears many of the same trademarks seen throughout his filmography: richly drawn characters, the role of tradition in Georgian society, and a genuine, warm humanity to proceedings. This detailed drama operates slowly, but it has strong emotional punches that land carefully and with real impact.

Crossing starts in Batumi, Georgia. Retired teacher Lia (a sensational Mzia Arabuli) arrives at a small house on the beach searching for her niece, Tekla. Achi (Lucas Kankava), who lives at home with his domineering older brother, suggests Tekla may have gone to Istanbul, grabbing the chance to go with Lia as a means of escape from his unhappy home life. This unlikely intergenerational duo set off on their search; when they cross the border, Achi amusingly remarks how similar it looks to his home country. Lia tells him to wait until he sees Istanbul, with the largest city in Turkey becoming a character in its own right.

Lia and Achi’s winding journey through Istanbul sees them meet a host of well-rounded characters, from two young homeless children to a lawyer called Evrim (Deniz Dumanli). Throughout Crossing, Akin masterfully manages both the sprawling nature of Istanbul and the vast array of characters. Each one feels complex and multifaceted, whether it’s the destructive traditional values that Lia can’t leave behind or Evrim’s own experiences as a trans woman in a largely bigoted society. Just like in And Then We Danced, Akin keenly highlights the dangerous notions of tradition, and how such teachings can feed into discrimination.

a woman and a boy lean on each other while sitting in the film Crossing by Levan Akin
A still from the film Crossing, now at the 2024 Berlin Film Festival. (© Haydar Taştan / Berlinale)

In Crossing, Istanbul is painted with warmth and verve. The camera frequently leaves the characters’ sides and roves around the streets or other scenery, drinking in the vibrant surroundings. Crossing is a fluid film that shows just how powerful straight talking, dialogue-driven dramas can be. It is no easy feat to create such a refined drama, considering the number of characters in Crossing; it takes time for them to converge, but when they do, it is thoroughly climactic. 

Crossing is also a visual treat, with the same warm hues and lighting of And Then We Danced. Akin takes time from the more conventional scenes of dialogue to highlight tiny moments, such as light playing on a shadowed hand or face. Such considered moments, as well as more dreamlike elements, feed into Crossing’s spectacular finale. The construction is careful, but the emotional impact at the end of Crossing is enough to take your breath away.

Bringing the tremendous story of Crossing to life are the actors. Kankava and Dumanli both shine, the former bringing humour and energetic charm, and the latter a powerful presence of steely determination. Leading the cast is Arabuli, who gives one of the best performances of the year so far. She portrays Lia’s irritable persona so well, showing a woman who has effectively given up on happiness, but as Lia’s journey continues, Arabuli expertly ranges from flickers of elation to intense sadness.

Crossing: Trailer (MUBI)

For all its themes of discrimination and ostracisation, Crossing keenly shows the obvious benefits of harmonious societies. Akin gently weaponises kindness and decency against such bigoted views; small acts such as a girl waving go far in showing how human connections can be built. Ultimately, Crossing is a lovely, life-affirming drama, without ever trivialising or simplifying the trans experience. Films such as this one should be treasured for their innate warmth, for those flickers of light amidst the hatred.

Crossing premiered at the 2024 Berlin Film Festival. The movie will be released in UK & Irish cinemas, select US theaters, and in Latin America, Germany, and more countries on July 19, 2024 and globally on MUBI from August 30, 2024. Read our Berlin Film Festival reviews!

Interview: Director Levan Akin on Crossing – Loud and Clear Reviews
We interview director/writer Levan Akin to discuss his latest film, Crossing, a layered drama that builds on the power of his previous movie.
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