We are on the Asian steppes with a family of semi-nomadic herdsmen: mother, father, daughter and two sons, the youngest of which is the most rambunctious little squirt you've ever seen! The wife's brother has come home from the Russian navy and wants to have his own herd, complete with wife, yurt, Bactrian (two-humped) camels, sheep and donkeys. He intends to work for his brother-in-law until he can make it happen.

The object of his unsolicited marriage plans, "Tulpan," never appears on screen. Ultimately our eponymous heroine seems to exist only in the mind's eye of our hero, and thus in ours. This eligible young woman lives more than a day's drive away from where he does, across a mind- blowing expanse of land. She is elusive, petulant (she thinks his ears are too big!), demanding and unavailable, therefore she is irresistible!

Once again I thank my lucky stars that I am NOT an actor, particularly on the wind-blown steppes of Kazakhstan! This 2009 SIFF selection, subjects the lead actor (and us!) to the most grueling lambing scene I have ever endured, although (Spoiler Alert!) both mother and child (ewe and lamb) survive.

The cinematography was astonishing. Polish cinematographer Jolanta Dylewska won the Asian Film award for 2009. She caught things on film that absolutely could NOT have been staged and leave you scratching your head in wonder. Between the animals, the weather and that unfettered little boy, I was impressed.

The dialogue is in Russian and Kazakh with English subtitles...and very good ones, too. The language seems idiomatic and natural, while the woman who played the mother was wonderful. This film held my interest from beginning to end (even that yucky lambing scene).

Post Script: The 2009 SIFF evaluators placed this on the plus side of their ledger, but not by much. (I'll bet it was that lambing scene!)