Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Inadequate People (orig. Неадекватные люди / Neadekvatnye Lyudi) [2010]

MPAA (UR would be R)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing listing* listing* listing* listing*

Variety (R. Scheib) review (E. Polyakova) review* (V. Matizen) review* (Mor) review* (A. Eksler) review* (H. Wolly) review* (Z. Nikoleava) review* (S. Stepnova) review* (D. Ruzaev) review* (A.O. Valentinovna) review*

Inadequate People (orig. Неадекватные люди / Neadekvatnye Lyudi) [2010] [IMDb] []*[]*[]* (written and directed by Roman Karimov [IMDb] []*[]*[]*) is a surprising, gentle, both pointed and poignant, viewer acclaimed Russian "small indie" film (made for budget of less than $100,000) that while unsurprising (read on...) won _no awards_ (and wasn't even nominated for any) has nonetheless appeared _repeatedly_ on critics' lists as one of the best Russian films made since the turn of the new century (Hence why I included it as part of my 2015 Russian Film Tour).  Why?  Why the praise for this film?

Well, it's a gentle plea for compassion / freedom that would probably scare / "unstettle" most "authority figures." And I'm not talking here of "big shot" Authority Figures like "Putin" or "Obama" ... I'm talking about parents, teachers and clergy (and let's face it I'm a Catholic priest, so I have to count myself in this list) ... arguably the authorities that _really count_ in day-to-day life.

The story centers on two very average people:

The first is 30-something Vitaly (played by Ilya Lyubimov [IMDb] []*[]*), who at the beginning of the film appears to be returning (from some kind of incarceration / institutionalization) to "normal" life, somber / chastened, after a terrible tragedy that, like it or not, he's come to accept was of his own doing:

One random night, waiting in a bar for his girlfriend who he loved and by all accounts loved him, he had gotten drunk.  Then when she arrived with "another man," he took a swings at him before being stopped and explained to that the "other man" was his girlfriend's cousin ...   Finally at evenings' end, Vitaly, again drunk, set-out to drive his girlfriend home, and got into an accident ... in which he lived, and she ... did not (was killed).  It was "just one night, one awful random night, where _everything_ that could have gone wrong, did."  But ... he also knew or had come to appreciate during his subsequent "time away" (again during his institutionalization / incarceration) that this was _also_ his fault, that he did have both anger and alcohol issues that needed to be dealt with.

So in the opening scene of the film, we see Vitaly, recently returned from "where-ever" at a young amiable "hot shot" Moscow psychologist's office (played by Evgeniy Tsyganov [IMDb] []*[]*).  Was Vitaly bitter that he was there?  Not really.  He even asked for a few of the psychologist's business cards, which throughout the film he gave to others who he thought could use some help.

The second protagonist of the story was the initially ever-in-a-funk, moody, eye-rolling 16-year-old daughter, Kristina (played by Ingrid Olerinskaya [IMDb] []*[]*) of Vitaly's (new) neighbor a 40-something professional-of-some-kind / single-mom named Yulia (played by Marina Zaytseva [IMDb] []*).  Note that Vitaly himself was no "blue-overalls wearing, hammer, blow torch or pick-axe carrying prol."  Instead, he had made a living as a copy-writer / translator working for one-or-another / random Moscow magazine or publishing house, and was seeking to return to that line of work now that his "time away" was over.   He had originally been from Serpukhov, a town of some 100,000, south-west of Moscow.  Now that he was "rebuilding his life" / "starting over" and had no attachments back in his hometown (indeed, arguably he was "fleeing" his home town and with some shame), he had decided to move closer to Moscow, hence to a still quite random apartment, in a still quite random apartment complex, still at the edges of Moscow somewhere, just not "where he was from."  And so then also ... the new neighbors ...  

Okay, Kristina was not an _uncommonly_ eyes-rolling / moody 16-year old who had "difficulty" with her mother (or whose mother had difficulty with her).  But Kristina's behavior did increasingly wear on her mother BOTH because it would probably wear on _any mother_ AND because Yulia "was a professional after all" and this didn't necessarily "fit in her plan (for her daughter)."  So eventually, Vitaly gives Yulia one of the business cards that he asked of the psychologist and Yulia / Kristina go to see him.

However, this story is not really about the psychologist, or even about Kristina's mother.  It's about Kristina and Vitaly, and ... unsurprisingly, with no father figure in her life Kristina begins "to fall" for Vitaly.

The rest of the movie is (quite uncomfortably) about ... what does Vitaly do about Kristina.

This is, of course, WHY the film, LIKED by (often not particularly critical) viewers and (more grudgingly) by critics, NEVERTHELESS GOT NO AWARDS (and wasn't even nominated for any).  It's a quite uncomfortable film, the second half of it.

And it isn't that Vitaly (or the film's maker) did not know that it was wrong (on all kinds of levels) for a 30-something y/o man to get into a relationship with a 16-y/o girl, both Vitaly (and the film's maker) do.   Vitaly repeatedly walks away from the precipice throughout most of the film and the film-maker keeps the story in PG-13 territory throughout. 

But in a key dialogue near the end of the film, Kristina asks her (ever concerned and perhaps domineering) mother: Have you ever made a mistake?

It's an interestingly damning question.  If her answer was "Yes," then Kristina would respond: "Then why won't you let me make one?" And if her answer was "No," then Kristina would respond: "So how has perfection worked out for you?" (Not well, it was clear that Yulia herself was quite unhappy).

So the film becomes a plea for tolerance of imperfection / failure.   For with Freedom comes the possibility to Choose Poorly / Make Mistakes.  But yes, it's a very uncomfortable movie to watch for all kinds of (even well-meaning) authority figures who'd like to protect their charges from mistakes / failure.  So good job there, on the part of the film-maker, good job!

ADDENDUM:  How to find this film?  The film listed on the Art in Russia website as "One of the 17 Best Russian Films of the 21st Century" is quite widely available, in Russian, on the internet.  English subtitles for the film can be found on the website.

* Reasonably good (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser. 

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