Moscow Never Sleeps

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Moscow Never Sleeps  (2017)    Cavu Pictures/Drama    RT: 100 minutes    No MPAA rating (language, some violence, sexual content, drugs, thematic elements)    Director: Johnny O’Reilly    Screenplay: Johnny O’Reilly    Music: Roman Litvinov    Cinematography: Fedor Lyass    Release date: September 8, 2017 (Philadelphia, PA)    Cast: Aleksey Serebryakov, Mikhail Efremov, Evgenia Brik, Lyubov Aksyonova, Elena Safonova, Viktor Verzhbitskiy, Elena Babenko, Sergey Belov, Sofya Resnyanskaya, Yuriy Stoyanov, Anastasiya Shalonko, Oleg Dolin, Tamara Spiricheva, Rustam Akhmadeev.      Spoken in Russian w/English subtitles

 

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 When I think of Russian cinema, the first names that come to mind are Andrei Tarkovsky (Stalker) and Andrey Zvyagintsev (Leviathan). Their movies tend to be on the heavy side. They portray Russia as a country mired in corruption, poverty, desperation and fear. It wasn’t all that long ago that Russia was a Communist country that rejected any and all Western influences. They’ve come a long way since the days of Gorbachev.

 In the new film Moscow Never Sleeps, Moscow is depicted a bright, teeming metropolis filled with different types of people going about their daily lives. It looks just like any big city with the shiny skyscrapers, traffic, restaurants and clubs. Also like any major city, there are a million stories; the ones told here are just a few. At the same time, it has its own unique personality. It’s a distinctively Eastern European city where poorer families reside in small apartments in shabby buildings. It’s unusual to see Moscow portrayed in such a way. This is what happens when an outsider is behind the wheel. In this case it’s an Irishman, Johnny O’Reilly (The Weather Station), doing the driving. He sees things that lifelong residents don’t. The result is an engaging albeit not very deep film.

moscow-never-sleeps In the style of Short Cuts and Magnolia, Moscow Never Sleeps is structured as five intertwined stories featuring folks from both ends of the socioeconomic spectrum. It takes place over the course of a single 24-hour day, City Day to be exact. On the lower half, a brother and sister prepare to place their elderly grandmother (Spiricheva) in a nursing home. The brother Stepan (Belov) is the only one that cares about the woman; his sister (Resnyanskaya) and uncle, Vladimir (Efremov), are all too eager to be freed of the responsibility of caring for her. At home, Vladimir forces his daughter Kseniya (Aksyonova) to take her stepsister Lera (Shalonko) out with her for the night. The girls don’t get along at all.

 On the other end, famous TV actor Valeriy (Stoyanov) has been given weeks to live and doesn’t intend to spend them in hospital. He escapes to go drinking one last time and encounters a group of thuggish young people who force him to party with them. His son Ilya (Dolin) is stalking his ex-girlfriend, pop singer Katya (Brik), who’s now involved with Anton (Serebryakov), a wealthy developer being forced out of his own project by the government. He plans to leave the country and fight the good fight from New York.

 Like the recent Good Time, Moscow Never Sleeps is a movie that throbs with energy. Granted, it isn’t imbued with the same sense of urgency; it feels more like a celebration which it really is. City Day is a major thing in Moscow; it’s marked by a night of citywide celebrations. The streets are filled with people going to clubs and parties. It’s almost like Times Square on New Year’s Eve. There’s plenty of drama with Valeriy’s declining health and all the business with his wife and mistress. There’s also danger as the two girls find themselves in a dangerous situation with some guys they meet at a club. Moscow Never Sleeps is a very compelling movie that never delves too deep beneath the surface. It doesn’t have anything new or revealing to say about Moscow and its denizens. It basically gives us a view of a major city by way of a few personal stories. The acting is very good by all parties and the cinematography by Fedor Lyass is first-rate. It’s a well-made movie and worth seeing even if it isn’t any deeper than a saucer.

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