Tanya arrives in London with her son Artyom, expecting to be met by her boyfriend. When he doesn't show and immigration wants to send her back to Russia, she asks for political asylum to buy some time. She has no idea that this will consign them for at least a year to a detention center, a fenced "city" near an abandoned seaside amusement park. Once there, realizing her boyfriend will never help her, she just wants to go home, but withdrawing the petition for asylum takes months. She's approached by pornographers inviting her to strip on line for cash; she's befriended by Alfie, a clerk at a convenience store at the center. She's a dreamer; what can she do? Written by
[Tanya and Alfie are talking late at night in the empty bingo hall. Tanya has been drinking, and starts to cry]
What's the matter. Ah, no, no. Hey, don't get upset.
No, it's alright, man, it's alright. Ok. Why are you so upset?
Because I'm crazy.
No, you're not crazy.
Yes. I'm so stupid. I don't know... This city, it's like... it's like punishment for me, it's like punishment for some mistakes in my life. You know, yes, yes, really. I make so many mistakes.
I've made mistakes. ...
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This is a stylistically outstanding film, where Pavilkovsky pares down the usual omnipresent noise of the modern world and allows the protagonists to interact in controlled conditions, like a professor in a laboratory. The result is something uniquely beautiful that exists somewhere on the outskirts of modern film-making, at least from my humble perspective. In a sense, we feel as if we've been allowed access to world outside of our own, close to, but vitally different from ours. As a bad analogy, think of Reservoir Dogs, where Tarantino constructs a microcosm which looks familiar to us, but the events and the atmosphere within that microcosm are alien to us. (N.B. That is where parallels between the two films end!).
Considine turns out another sublime performance, showing us his ability to court our empathy, and then throw it back in our face when his simmering rage boils over (see also A Room For Romeo Brass and My Summer Of Love). Dina Korzun provides the perfect foil as a picture of stoic vulnerability. She plays the role of mother, friend, struggling provider, lover, and jilted lover without ever missing a beat, and in a perfect world would have received an Oscar nomination for her role.
To me, this film embodies the joy of film watching. You quickly realize that in order to appreciate it, you must surrender yourself to it and allow it to lead you where it will, unquestioningly. And the rewards are plentiful. For me, the beauty lies in the simplicity, the lack of hyperbole, the feeling that despite the director's attempts to present an abstracted vision of the modern world, he is still commenting heavily on it, and there is something within for us to reflect on. Hollywood could never, and perhaps would never, make a film like this, there's nothing in-your-face witty or clever about it, but as a reflection of a world that actually exists, it is absolutely uncanny.
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