Review by John Delia
A film like Beanpole does not come around that often, but when it does itâ€™s a must see for film buffs and indie lovers who like to wrap their brains around an amazing film that challenges the mind. Itâ€™s outstanding and powerful! Set in Russia, the movie tells a haunting story of two women that have to come to grips with life after WWII. Itâ€™s the perfect movie that has excellent direction, awesome acting and a daunting storyline. It was Russiaâ€™s entry for the 2020 Oscars and chosen in their top 10. It is available at select theaters and soon on VOD and other media.
World War II has ended and Leningrad, Russia has still not recovered over the loss of life and wounded that they experienced against Germany. Two soldiers returning home are Iya â€œBeanpoleâ€ (Viktoria Miroshnichenko) and Masha (Vasilisa Perelygina), women who had fought side-by-side as anti-aircraft gunners. Now home, three years or so after the fighting stopped, they are suffering from the ordeal and have not been able to assimilate in a good way back into the society they once knew.
When the film begins Iya is at a laundry where she has frozen with psychological trauma. Unable to move a woman finally helps her out of her trance. Itâ€™s who she has become following her return from the Russian front during WWII. A nurse at a local hospital, she assists with recovering soldiers who have various types of incurable wounds and psychological damage. The doctor she works for knows of her psychotic dilemma and uses her for the patients that are near death. In the evening she takes care of three-year-old Pashka the son of Masha.
Following a nightmare evening she visits Masha who works at a brothel of sorts. A decorated soldier, Masha returned from the battle front where when she was not manning the big guns, performed a different job along with other women that used as sexual favors for the male troops. On her return from the war, sheâ€™s been surviving on food she gets from the local men who give it to her in return for favors.
The story goes on from their showing the relationship between Iya and Masha as they attempt to recover from their past. Director and writer Kantemir Balagov moves his film along dropping morsels of Iya and Mashaâ€™s past and how they are coping with the present. He shows the dreadful side of life in Leningrad and an existence of helplessness and hopelessness. Itâ€™s a tough time for those who served in the war and the people at home who were working for the cause during the fighting. Balogov shows the poverty and the inequality of the people brought on by the Communist Regime and the pretentiousness of those that have wealth.
The acting by the two women is brilliant! Both give equally amazing performances as Iya and Masha that range from sad and unimaginable to a determination to get out of the mire in which they find themselves. Miroshnichenkoâ€™s nearly 7 foot and towers over most of the players in the film. Her presence is undeniably intimidating at times, but her sweetness offsets the intimidating looks her height gives others. Easy to sway Iya that she is doing right when sheâ€™s doing the unthinkable, she shows a side of her illness being used to survive. Itâ€™s her first role in a movie, but if Hollywood sees this film sheâ€™s could be getting a lot of work soon. She won 5 Best Actress awards at Asian and European film festivals including the Russian Guild of Film Critics.
As the aggressive Masha, Vasilisa Perelygina shows how the woman doesnâ€™t know what reality is anymore. Masha has one thing in mind and thatâ€™s getting all she can no matter who she hurts, even her best friend Iya. When Masha gets a chance to move out of the mire, she reaches too high on the social ladder and slips on her pride. Able to draw tears, sheâ€™s a prime example of life in the Leningrad ghetto. Beanpole is also Vasilisaâ€™s first film and she nails her role making the drama work. The role brought her three wins as Best Actress at European film festivals.
Beanpole has not been rated by the MPAA but contains, language, some brutality, drug use, nudity and sex. The film spools out in Russian with English subtitles. It is now playing at select theaters. The movie then will be show on VOD providers and hopefully it will be released on home video soon.
FINAL ANALYSIS: A terrific drama including direction, acting and especially the storyline. (5 out of 5 stars)
Additional Film Information:
Cast: Viktoria Miroshnichenko, Vasilisa Perelygina, Andrey Bykow, Igor Shirokov, Timofey Glazkiov
Directed and written by: Kantemir Balagov
Genre: Drama, Foreign (Russia)
MPAA Rating: Not Rated, contains violence, brutality, sex, nudity, drug use
Running Time: 2 hrs. 10 min.
Opening Date: February 14, 2020
Released in: Select Theaters and VOD
Living Room Theaters, Boca Raton, Florida March 6-12
Oâ€™ Cinema, Miami, Florida, March 6-12