It is 1992, in Georgia, during the war in Abkhazia between ethnic Georgians and Abkhaz separatists. Ivo and and Margus are ethnic Estonians, two of the very last Estonians in Georgia, most of the rest having decamped to Estonia following the fall of Communism and the Hole in Flag revolutions. Margus is only sticking around because he has a tangerine orchard and wants to harvest his crop. Ivo, a carpenter, is busy making crates to hold Margus's tangerines.
One day some soldiers meet each other on the road outside of Margus's house and start fighting. Most of them are killed, but Ivo and Margus rescue two survivors: Nika, a Georgian, and Ahmed, a Chechen Muslim missionary fighting for the Abkhazians/Russians. The two men, both grievously wounded, are taken to Ivo's house to recover, but Ivo has to struggle to keep them from killing each other.
Tropes present in this film:
- Blood from the Mouth: Nika, after being shot at the end.
- Bookends: In the first scene Ivo is sawing wood to make crates. Near the end he's sawing wood to make coffins.
- Chromosome Casting: Not a single woman in the movie.
- Coincidental Broadcast: Every time Ivo flips on the radio, it's perfectly timed to the start of a news bulletin about the war.
- Dies Wide Open: The soldier driving the truck.
- Due to the Dead: Ivo and Magnus bury the killed soldiers of each side. Nika gets his grave next to the son of Ivo.
- Every Car Is a Pinto: Discussed Trope, and averted. Ivo, Magnus, and Juhan push one of the army jeeps off a bluff. It rolls and tumbles a good hundred feet into a ravine. Nothing happens.Juhan: I thought it would explode.
Magnus: They explode in cinema.
Ivo: Cinema is a big fraud.
- Hired Guns: Ahmed joined the army for the paycheck.
- If We Get Through This...: Ivo wants to attend a performance of Nika as an actor on stage after the war. And even bring Ahmed along. A couple of minutes later Nika is dead.
- Kubrick Stare: Nika shoots one at Ahmed after leaving his sickroom for the first time and encountering Ahmed at the breakfast table. Then he throws his coffee at Ahmed.
- Last Breath Bullet: Ahmed thinks they've wiped out all the Russians, but he's wrong. The officer isn't quite dead yet, and he gets off one more shot, killing Nika.
- Off-into-the-Distance Ending: Ends with Ahmed getting back into his bullet-riddled jeep and driving back to Chechnya, where no doubt everything worked out wonderfully.
- The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Ahmed says "No, I have to kill him myself" when Ivo asks if Ahmed will turn Nika in to the Abkhaz soldiers out front. The real reason of course is that after getting to know him, Ivo doesn't want to kill Nika at all.
- Poor Communication Kills: The final shootout with its body count of five could have been avoided if Ahmed were more forthcoming about his heritage. But he had to be a jerkass and instead insult the men with the guns.
- Pre-War Civilian Career: It's revealed that Nika was an actor before the war.
- The Remnant: Ivo, Magnus, and Juhan the doctor are the only remaining members of the Estonian community. Juhan leaves halfway through the movie, and Magnus is planning on leaving as soon as he harvests his tangerines.
- Sacred Hospitality: The film opens with Ivo proving food for the passing-through soldiers.
- Teeth Clenched Team Work: During the climax, Ahmed and Nika work together to fight off the militants.
- Tragic Keepsake: In the final scene, Ahmed plays the tape Nika was fixing earlier on.
- Trivial Title: Tangerines are featured prominently in the film yet they don't have anything to do with the central conflict.
- War Is Hell: And futile, the cause of senseless tragedy.