IMDb Rating: 7.1/10
NR | 2h 10min | Drama, War | 20 June 2019 (Belarus) | Movie
Metacritic: 84/100 Rated as “Must See”
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 91% Fresh (Critic Reviews)
Director: Kantemir Balagov
Writers: Kantemir Balagov, Aleksandr Terekhov
Stars: Viktoria Miroshnichenko, Vasilisa Perelygina, Andrey Bykov
IMDb summary: 1945, Leningrad. WWII has devastated the city, demolishing its buildings and leaving its citizens in tatters, physically and mentally. Two young women search for meaning and hope in the struggle to rebuild their lives amongst the ruins.
This was reviewed by Jeremy
Beanpole is set in post World War II Leningrad after the Nazis attacked and left the city partially in ruin. Leningrad was hit hard by the Nazi war machine and the people left to rebuild it are also rebuilding what is left of their lives. This is the story of two women, Masha and Iya (Beanpole) who survived the front and are now rebuilding like everyone else.
As some of the city’s structures lay in ruins, the people are just as injured; some physically, some mentally. Iya suffers from some sort of mental affliction that “freezes” her in place so she cannot move or react to anything or anyone. We are not told whether or not this was a condition she had prior to joining the army or illness she acquired as a result of the war. The people around Iya are not really phased by her condition. They seem to notice it when it happens and move on, going about their daily routines. This is odd but you get the sense that this is how life is in Leningrad. Shit happens and then you just move on.
Masha is Iya’s friend – or at least we think she is. When she arrives in Leningrad from the front, she imposes upon Iya as if it was expected. We can tell that they are close, much like two women who found each other during a difficult time and bonded over it. But as the film progresses, we begin to understand the strange nature of their relationship. Are they lovers? Not quite. Even though this film has been toted as a “love story”, I’m not so sure it’s as clear-cut as that. Their relationship is complex and it feels like the two women are doing their best to cope with how their lives are now they no longer need to fight to survive.
While Masha was still on the front, Iya has been coping as best she can with her child. We soon learn that it isn’t Iya’s child and Masha comes home to face a devastating truth which we expect would tear the two women apart. But their relationship suddenly evolves into one of co-dependency and control which was something unexpected. Masha’s needs seem to supersede Iya’s at every turn and Iya is slowly becoming angrier as a result.
When a third person is introduced into their already complicated relationship, we suddenly see Masha’s survival instincts kick in and Iya is, once again, on the receiving end of Masha’s selfishness.
Masha makes decisions for herself without consulting Iya and things begin to move much more quickly towards the middle and last stretch of the film. Masha is still in control, and instead of resisting, Iya is desperately trying to get the upper hand by doing all she can to please Masha. Person number three seems to also be at Masha’s beck and call until he isn’t. And their relationship fizzles out just as fast as it started, much to Iya’s relief.
Eventually, Masha and Iya reunite after a brief time apart. And while this may seem like a wonderful way to end things, it was a little annoying that their relationship still had so many unresolved feelings and issues to address. The ending felt rushed and a little messy compared to the rest of the film.