This is one of my favorite Gerasimov films; I've seen four others. This story is about a girl of around 18 who comes from a far away town to the apartment of a woman, a dancing instructor, who she believes to be her mother, and this woman's family: her sick (not seriously) writer husband and two pretty teenage daughters. It is obvious right from the start that they are not related but is a case of mistaken identity, the girl is even unsure about the last name she was given. They talk and get to know each other for a couple of minutes as a result of this awkward situation. Since the girl came from far away to see this woman, she asks if she could stop by her apartment because she doesn't know anyone and the woman tells her she can. She spends the next couple of days with the family observing how they live. She visits the mother's ballet studio, tries to hang out with the daughters, and has dinner with the family and an old friend of theirs who comes to visit and has to run, and this wonderful character is brilliantly played by the director himself. The scene with the father and this old friend where they exchange poems is so powerful for me for some reason.
Most of the film is talking scenes and there is almost no music, except for the beginning credits and dance scenes in the apartment and at the dance studio. The unique Gersimov cinematography, time flow, and choice of material that he chooses reminds me of Manoel De Oliveira's films a little bit, this film does at least, not so much "U Ozera"/"By The Lake" on the other hand though.
The characters are awesome, they are mostly what I remember. The two characters that to me are very fascinating are the main girl and the father of the family. The girl is a typical communist youth, polite, helpful, full of ambition and energy towards work and studies. Though this girl is somewhat naïve, and the viewer will him/herself feeling bad for her, because to the two teenage daughters who are very pretty and cool she is annoying and a square, they don't share any interests with her. She puts on a strong face, and even lies to make her life look fine and herself look well put together, but that's just it, she has to pretend and lie sometimes. There is so much depth to her character. Also, maybe my favorite character is the father. I'd describe him as a little anti-social, or at least liking his privacy and being cynical of a lot of things. He is an artist and likes a simple life. He seems to be sort of bi-polar, not to get too technical, but they mention how he changes his mood fast, and indeed he acts a little childish at times, and just as fast he acts free and whimsical again. He's a fun guy who can be very deep at times; and he could be very kind but also angry.
This film is very recommended to people who love well written plays and excellent realistic characters, whose lives play out in front of you. BUT not only to these people do I recommend this film, but to people who like cinema and artistic unique films. This film, like all Gerasimov's films has parts that are long scenes that are in "real time", the progress naturally in time without editing or lapses in time. I love this about his films, you really get intimate with the lives of the characters, because you come in on them and begin living parallel to them, watching everything they do. That's what I like most about this film, it's detailed analysis and documentation of this story. Again, it's like a play, a good play, where characters are rich and talk a lot and the greatness is in the nature of the dialogue. Great film. 10/10, because I love the style and the story, and the characters.
And just for the movie buffs. The writer of this film Aleksandr Volodin also wrote the play "Five Evening" that Mikhalkov made into a movie a couple of years after this film, it's similar in it's long, real-time scenes. The only film the writer himself directed, and wrote the book, would later be the basis of Georgi Daneliya's film "Nastya". And he was also one of three writers on Daneliya's "Tears Were Falling". Last but not least he was the writer who wrote one of my favorite Daneliya films "Autumn Marathon"! And I just found all this out, awesome.
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