“Between Moscow and Murmansk, Laura (Seidi Haarla), a Finnish archaeology student at the dwindling end of a love affair with worldly Muscovite Irina (Dinara Drukarova), must share her second-class bunk compartment with tough-looking Russian guy Ljoha (Yuriy Borisov, who also appears in Kirill Serebrennikov’s film Petrov’s Flu [NZIFF 2021]).
First impressions aren’t great: Ljoha, taut and glowering as an energy coil, scatters sparks from his cigarette across the cluttered table and alternates swigs of generic vodka with bites of a sausage the color of a blocked artery. Laura, on a quixotic mission to see some rare petroglyphs (rock paintings) in the Murmansk region, spends much of the first leg of her journey trying unsuccessfully to get away from him. But that changes during one overnight stopover after which, and not because of any particular revelation, they wake up as friends... As Ljoha, Borisov buries his soulfulness under a restless, constant physicality – he even seems to sleep tensely. And Haarla, the protagonist, is even more subtle, magnificent in her lank-haired, sensible-sweatered normalcy, her almost palpable insecurity constantly in flux with her quiet self-worth. Separately – for they are lonely individuals – the actors are wonderful in conveying the smallest of changes in chemistry between the characters, and together, there is not a moment of their relationship that you do not believe. Love is supposed to blossom, but theirs is nothing as fragile as a flower; it’s a trainyard weed, scrubby and unlikely, but hardier than the pretty red roses of other people’s affections.” — Jessica Kiang, Variety