99 minutes, Estonian/Armenian/Russian True Story Drama with English Subtitles

Set shortly after World War II, this is the true story of Endel Nelis (Märt Avandi), a professional fencer who is fleeing from the Russian secret police. Relocating to his country of origin – Estonia, he keeps a low profile working as a physical education teacher at a local school. But after some time, Endel is faced with a difficult decision as his past catches up with him.

The circumstances that motivated Endel’s escape remain in the background throughout the first half of THE FENCER. In actual fact, a large part of the plot is more focused on tracing Endel’s adaptation to his new lifestyle and in particular, to his teaching duties. Some aspects of his daily life matter less than others. His love interest involving a fellow colleague is hardly developed enough for it to have the eventual impact intended and never feels essential to the core of this story. With little screen time attributed, it also lacks the subtlety needed. Rather, it is this teacher’s interactions with his pupils and the actions of a disapproving school Principal that are the key in keeping THE FENCER an absorbing film all throughout. A couple of performances from the child actors playing these pupils really stand out too. Especially that from Liisa Koppel as Marta, a very observant and rather outspoken young girl. 

Filmed entirely in Estonia, this Golden Globe nominee for Best Foreign Language Film never portrays or travels far into the more upsetting themes that the synopsis may suggest it goes. It’s a little like THE BOOK THIEF in this aspect. Only a moderate degree of tension is mounted throughout some of the last half as Endel’s past sporadically becomes the foreground of the picture. By the end, THE FENCER isn’t a necessarily a movie destined to evoke intense feelings or emotions, but rather a film to view and appreciate for its lead character and his true story.

3 out of 5 


Viewer Discretion
PG – Mild Themes 

Moviedoc wishes to thank Paige from Palace Films and Palace Films for the advanced screening pass to view & review THE FENCER.

Review by Moviedoc 
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  1. This a tense and sensitive portrait of quiet heroism. Sure, it follows the ‘inspiring teacher’ genre forumla and to that extent is predictable. But this is an original take on a cinematic cliche and merits respect for its achievement.

    Liked by 1 person

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