A powerful and emotionally draining look at young Jews on the run during World War II, Naomi Jaye’s The Pin has become not only buzzworthy around the world where it has been garnering raves, but also here at home for being the only Canadian produced Yiddish film. Filled with gorgeous cinematography and boasting a pair of excellent lead performances, this patient and nuanced character study balances historical relevancy and a claustrophobic sense of dread that hangs over its two main characters.
In a barn in Lithuania, a young Jewish woman (Milda Gecaite) hides in fear from being found by encroaching Nazi forces. She’s joined in the barn by a physically wounded young man named Jacob (Grisha Pasternak). In that barn the pair will remain as long as possible, eventually falling for each other and dreaming of escaping the country for America.
The film could invite comparison to something like The Blue Lagoon in terms of the romantic subtext, but thematically it owes a lot more to something like Empire of the Sun on a smaller budget. The love story is beautiful, but the situation consistently harrowing. To her infinite credit, Jaye never spends the entirety of her lean and thoughtful film constantly pushing the panic button t goose the audience into remembering the stakes. She has a great respect for her characters, their minimal environment, and the severity of their plight, and she never gives into melodrama.
It’s an exceptional debut film for Jaye, showcasing a lot of promise for the future. It’s certainly a tough film to take, but it’s not intended as a miserable screed on how terrible things are. Nor is it a film about creating a sense of false hope. It’s a stark and well rounded survival drama, and while it could do without the wrap around story about Jacob in the present, that doesn’t damage the film’s impact in the slightest. It’s disarmingly strong; a quiet burst of energy that will leave viewers invigorated. It’s well worth seeking out this weekend.