Following the death of his wife and loss of his job, a Russian engineer sets off from Moscow with his 11 year old son for his sister's house, in the Black Sea resort of Koktebel. With no money or means of transport, they drift through Russia's expansive and mesmerising landscape at the mercy of chance. For the father, the journey is an attempt to restore self respect, piece together his broken life and win back the trust of his son. For the boy, the mythic coastal town holds the key to a new life and emancipation. Boris Khlebnikov and Alexei Popogrebsky's critically acclaimed, award-winning road movie is a wonderfully acted, delicately observed and beautifully shot drama that has been favourably compared to the work of directors such as Terrence Malick, Andrei Tarkovsky and Francois Truffaut.
I have an interest in Russia, past and present and have developed a certain patience with their "art" films which tend to be short on narrative and long on stills of their subjects and their background. I've noticed also in Russian contemporary films an emphasis on orphanhood or -- at best -- a single and possibly inadequate parent. Here father, intermittently a heavy drinker, and his son of around twelve travel across rural Russia towards Crimea. As they do so you see how neglected rural Russia is after the Soviet period when there were collective farms and small industries in the towns. Everything looks so dilapidated and in need of an injection of money. Not a film o watch when you are downhearted, but one which provides you with real insights into aspects of life in contemporary Russia.