‘Bad Roads’: Review

‘Bad Roads’: Review

Natalya Vorozhbit adapts her own play for this anguished look at recent Ukrainian history.


Humanity is the first casualty of war in Bad Roads. Natalya Vorozhbit’s adaptation of her 2017 play is a howl of anguish over the recent history of the Ukraine and the impact of hostilities with neighbouring Russia. Her powerful directorial debut uses four stories to illustrate the appalling treatment of women and how a climate of fear destroys any thought of compassion. Ukraine’s official Oscar selection is undeniably heartfelt, but the grim narratives make for unforgiving viewing.

Boasts an accomplished ensemble cast which does justice to a set of characters at the mercy of a cruel world

Partly inspired by the testimonies of real victims, Bad Roads was performed at the Royal Court in London. It feels as if Vorozhbit is sifting through the wreckage of a society desperately seeking some glimmer of hope; it is hard to perceive any in the tales of humiliation, abduction and suffering.

The notion that Donbass has become a hell on earth is reflected in the fading light as we progress through the stories. The shimmer of summer heat is visible at the start as a sozzled headmaster (Igor Koltovskyy) falls foul of two officious checkpoint guards. A simple misunderstanding over a passport and the contents of his car boot escalates into something more serious. It shifts again as the man thinks he recognises a pupil from his school. Is she there? Has he imagined it? Should he make a fuss? Driving away is the safest option, but does that make him complicit in what might be happening to her? The way a situation can suddenly switch from ordinary to life-threatening is a recurring notion in a film depicting a society where mistrust has become a default setting. It is a classic example of evil triumphing when good men do nothing.

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