Beanpole

**1/2

Reviewed by: Richard Mowe

Beanpole
"The evocation of 1945 Leningrad is brilliantly captured with crumbling buildings and over-crowed trams but too often the dramatic set pieces fail to register" | Photo: Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

The second film by Russian director Kantemir Balagov, who made Closeness, unfurls against the background of post-Second World War Leningrad, which was devastated in the conflict.

He focuses on two young women, Iva (Viktoria Miroshnichenko) and Masha (Vasilisa Perelygina), who are struggling to rebuild their lives amid the rubble and ruins. Iva earns a living in a local hospital, tending both the mental and physical wounds of the soldiers who pass through the wards.

Iva is very tall (hence the title) and processes through it all with a certain gaucheness but the film is centred equally on the friendship between the two women and their relationships with men, including the chief medical officer Nikolai Ivanovich (Andrei Bykov) and the youthful Sasha (Igor Shirokov), the son of a Party official.

Balagov, who was a student of director Alexander Sokurov, was inspired by the stories of Russian women in the War revealed by Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexeievich in her book The Unwomanly Face of War.

The evocation of 1945 Leningrad is brilliantly captured with crumbling buildings and over-crowed trams but too often the dramatic set pieces fail to register and only make a muted impression.

The acting of Miroshnichenko, and Perelygina, one seemingly passive and the other more controlling, remain consistently affecting even though there is a lack of depth in the writing.

Closeness which also was in Cannes Un Certain Regard (2017) and won the Fipresci international critics’ prize, marked out the director as a name to watch. Beanpole makes a worthy if not entirely successful, step forward.

Reviewed on: 16 May 2019
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Two young women search for meaning and hope in the struggle to rebuild their lives amongst the ruins of Leningrad after the Second World War.

Director: Kantemir Balagov

Writer: Kantemir Balagov

Starring: Viktoria Miroshnichenko, Vasilisa Perelygina, Timofey Glazkov, Andrei Bykov

Year: 2019

Runtime: 134 minutes

Country: Russia

Festivals:

Cannes 2019
SSFF 2019

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