A lot of times we love movies because we see ourselves in them, and there is a big part of ‘And Then We Danced’ that struck an emotional chord with me. The film is about a young dancer in Tbilisi, Georgia named Merab. He comes from a family of dancers, and is studying in the hopes of being selected for the National Dance Company. He is training under a coach but in the beginning of the film, he starts criticizing him because his moves can be ‘soft.’ (Georgian dance is apparently very masculine) He becomes lost in himself in dance, and it is his escape from a chaotic domestic life. When another young male dancer comes in his company, he is fascinated by him, and at the same time sees him as threat and competition. And of course, he falls in love, even if it is ‘understood’ that he is together with his dance partner Mary, who he has been dancing with since they were in their teens.
While the story follows a certain coming-of-age formula its honesty trumps any familiarity. And Levan Gelbakhiani as Merab is sensational here, as a young man who starts to understand himself. He is an appealing young actor, who looks like a Georgian Tom Holland, who has a handsome screen presence. Apparently he is a trained dancer and does not have much acting experience but it doesn’t show, as he seems to be a natural. The film is able to convey that euphoric feeling of just being in love. After he has a tryst with fellow dancer Irakli (Bachi Valishvili) we see him light up, and we cannot help but fall in love with Merab as he discover love’s joy. But this is till conservative Georgia, and when the inevitable heartbreak comes since Irkli is shackled by tradition, it shatters. There is a final scene – Merab’s audition for the national dance troupe – that is liberating for the character as that is when he has realized the person he is meant to be, and we the audience feel it in every movement of the dance. I doubt if any other movie this year will best this as my favorite.