Beanpole (Dylda)


The Russian Odd Couple.

(2019) Drama (Kino-Lorber) Viktoria Miroshnichenko, Vasilisa Perelygina, Andrey Bykov, Igor Shirokov, Konstantin Balakirev, Kseniya Kutepova, Alyona Kuchkova, Venjamin Kac, Olga Draugunova, Denis Kozinets, Alisa Oleynik, Dmitri Belkin, Lyudmila Motornaya, Anastasiya Khmelinina, Viktor Chuprov, Vladimir Verzhbitsky, Vladimir Morozov, Timofey Glazkov. Directed by Kantemir Balagov

 

Leningrad (now known as St. Petersburg, the name it was originally given that the Soviets changed following the Revolution) suffered more than most cities during the Second World War, enduring a protracted siege from the Nazis that left it a barely functioning pile of rubble.

In this city, Iya (Miroshnichenko), a tall gangly blonde woman who seems uncomfortable in her own skin, works as a nurse in a veteran’s hospital; she herself manned anti-aircraft guns until a medical issue forced her out of active duty. The issue? She is prone to seizures resembling fugue states, in which she is unable to move or speak, breathing in a torturous, terrifying death rattle until the seizure passes. Despite this, she is raising a son Pashka (Glazkov) until tragedy strikes.

Shortly thereafter, a comrade from the war, Masha (Perelygina) is released from a hospital stay of her own. Iya, who is known by the somewhat insulting term “Beanpole” for her height, helps her get a job at the hospital and Masha moves in with her. The two share a common bond although both are polar opposites; whereas Iya is gentle and awkward, Masha is forward and manipulative. She is unable to bear children due to her injuries and wants Iya to have one for her; Iya is reluctant to but eventually gives in. Masha chooses Nikolay (Bykov), a doctor at the hospital who lacks the courage of his own convictions, to be the father.

The dynamic between the two women is at the center of the film and their friendship which is at times toxic and at other times tender, is the film’s crux. Miroshnichenko, who oddly resembles a young Tilda Swinton, is an amateur actress appearing in her first feature film, as is Perelygina. Both women do solid work here and the friendship between the two characters is made believable despite the differences between them because the actresses give the roles depth and character.

The film is based on the oral histories of the period by Nobel Prize-winning author Svetlana Alexievich and her book The Unwomanly Face of War. I haven’t read it myself but both women certainly exhibit the signs of PTSD that modern combat veterans display which points out the disparity that most films on the subject tend to portray the problems that men face, even though women are now going to war in greater numbers and suffering from the condition to the same degree. I’m sure it is not an honor any woman particularly wants to have.

The real heroes here are cinematographer Kseniya Sereda and production designer Sergey Ivanov, who present vividly-colored apartments and bleak external vistas. Even though the movie drags sometimes and has a tendency to become a little melodramatic, you’ll never get tired of looking at it.

REASONS TO SEE: Brilliant use of color and expressive cinematography come to the forefront
REASONS TO AVOID: A little bit on the soapy side.
FAMILY VALUES: There is sexuality, graphic nudity and some violence.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: It was Russia’s official submission for the Best International Film category at the most recent Oscars.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 3/9/20: Rotten Tomatoes:91% positive reviews: Metacritic: 85/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Enemy at the Gates
FINAL RATING: 6.5/10
NEXT:
I Am Human

Pick of the Litter – January 2020


BLOCKBUSTER OF THE MONTH

Dolittle

(Universal) Robert Downey Jr., Antonio Banderas, Michael Sheen, Jim Broadbent. From the beloved series of children’s books comes this new re-imagining. Most remember the bloated musical version starring Rex Harrison if they remember it at all, but this one stars Iron Man himself as the vet who can talk to the animals, and generally prefers animals to people. January 17

OTHER WIDE RELEASES TO WATCH FOR

Grudge, January 3
1917, January 10
The Informer, January 10
Just Mercy, January 10
Underwater, January 10
Bad Boys 4 Life, January 17
The Gentlemen, January 24
The Turning, January 24
Gretel and Hansel, January 31
The Rhythm Section, January 31

INDEPENDENT PICKS

Three Christs

(IFC) Richard Gere, Peter Dinklage, Bradley Whitford, Walton Goggins. The story of the groundbreaking psychological study by Dr. Alan Stone of three paranoid schizophrenics at the Ypsilanti State Hospital in 1959. All three of them believed they were Jesus Christ. January 3

Les misérables

(Amazon) Damien Bonnard, Alexis Manenti, Djebril Zonga, Issa Penca. A cop from the provinces moves to Paris and becomes entwined in a disturbing world of crime and brutality. The film was recently nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film award at the upcoming Golden Globes. January 10

Troop Zero

(Amazon) Mckenna Grace, Viola Davis, Alison Janney, Jim Gaffigan. A little girl in rural Georgia in 1977 dreams of outer space. When a chance to be part of NASA’s golden record to be sent out on Voyager for Birdie Scouts at the upcoming jamboree materializes, she founds a troop of fellow misfits hoping to achieve her dream but ends up finding something more lasting. January 17

Color Out of Space

(RLJE) Nicolas Cage, Joely Richardson, Tommy Chong, Madeleine Arthur. A meteorite lands near a small town and brings with it devastating horror. From the mind of author H.P Lovecraft and the legendary B-movie director Richard Stanley. January 24

Beanpole

(Kino-Lorber) Viktoria Miroshnichenko, Vasilisa Perelygina, Andrey Bykov, Igor Shirokov  Two young women, living in the tattered majesty of post-World War II Leningrad, desperately search for hope and meaning among the ruins. This is Russia’s official submission to this year’s Foreign Language Oscar category. January 29

Incitement

(Greenwich) Yehuda Nahari, Amitai Yaish, Anat Ravnitski, Yoav Levi The story of the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, as told through the eyes of the assassin. This was the most recent winner of the Israeli Academy Awards Best Picture and is also Israel’s official submission to the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar this year. January 31