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Originally published Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 3:05 PM

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‘The Pin’: A romance set in tragic times

A review of “The Pin,” a Canadian film about two young Eastern Europeans hiding in a barn during World War II.

The New York Times

Movie Review

‘The Pin,’ with Milda Gecaite, Grisha Pasternak. Written and directed by Naomi Jaye. 85 minutes. Rated R for some sexuality/nudity. Sundance Cinemas. In English and Yiddish, with English subtitles. Sundance Cinemas.

The New York Times does not provide star ratings with reviews.

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One man and one woman against the world is a familiar story, among the oldest, told from Genesis to “The Blue Lagoon.” “The Pin,” a Canadian film about two young Eastern Europeans hiding in a barn during World War II, is a variation in which the couple are enclosed in menace. Here their island is an underground hiding place and the Yiddish they speak to each other.

To describe “The Pin” as a tragic version of “The Blue Lagoon” is not to slight the solemn setting. Instead, it’s meant as a testament to the work of the film’s writer and director, Naomi Jaye. Her script touches on delicate notes of make-believe and isolation to create a mood of unadulterated romance in a story that combines the heartbreak of first love with a more deeply felt trauma.

Milda Gecaite as Leah (whose name we never hear) is a revelation. Her performance conveys feral comedy, strength, intelligence and an unshakable sadness. There is also something of the surreal humor found in “Woman in the Dunes” (1964) in the domestic details of her life with her lover (Grisha Pasternak): the hay in Leah’s hair or their daily gathering of apples from a childhood play spot.

Jaye uses sound, composition and careful patience to create a contemplative mood of memory, loss and magic. With limited resources and the power of storytelling, she has created a small film that feels mainstream and epic. It’s almost bewildering to think what this first-time feature director could build with a larger budget.

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