What surprised me was the emotion that this film evoked, and the fact that the (at times overbearing) sense of nationalism I had become accustomed to in Soviet films was seemingly absent. Cranes instead takes a long look at two young lovers and the toll WWII takes not only on their relationship but also that of their respective families (and, by extension, the Russian people).
Veronica is a complex character who I found sympathetic even as her actions should have turned me against her (more complex than the typical war heroine who waits out the war to reunite with her loved one). Veronica and Boris’ carefree, pre-war days and later, the tragedy she endures during the war, pulled me in and I was therefore slightly shocked at the turn her story takes—namely, her infidelity (even if she was unwilling) and subsequent marriage. The absence of communication from Boris, her obvious longing for him throughout and her personal loss certainly helped, but I think it was more so how Veronica was played that kept me invested.
Another surprising character was Boris’ father Feodor, who openly mocks friends of Boris who come to see him off, spouting patriotic clichés (and as such, gives away his own emotions at the potential of losing his son to the war). Feodor is also exceptionally loyal to Veronica, refusing to turn his back on her even when she seemingly betrays Boris (although, he does get his say in during a key scene when trying to calm a patient who grieves the fact that his gf did not wait for him). That the two come together in the end to comfort each other further shows the link between the two. ” - McBiscuit