Dave White
Alexandra Review

Dave's Rating:

5.0

… kind of stunning.

Who's in It: Galina Vishnevskaya, Vasily Shevtsov, Raisa Gichaeva

The Basics: An 80-year-old Russian woman travels to a desert-hot and bone-dry warfront in Chechnya to visit her military-officer grandson. Once there, her bullish humanism clashes with everything in her path. Only by leaving the base to shop at a market in a ruined Chechen village does she get anything resembling personal satisfaction.

What's the Deal? Movies about old people are rare enough. And seeing one that isn't get-all-Driving Miss Daisy on you with the forced weepiness and yet still manages to be true and moving is like finding a Wonka golden ticket. Even better, you don't have to be a big art-film junkie to get this one from legendary director Aleksandr Sokurov. Because while the whole thing is made up of little tiny moments that wouldn't fly as typical plot in another movie, especially a war movie (you never see a single battle or shot fired), the cumulative effect of them is kind of stunning.

Who's Galina Vishnevskaya, You Ask? Unknown to people who don't keep up with classical music and the opera world, she's a famous soprano in Russia (also famous for defecting in the 1970s) and was also married to the late cellist Mstislav Rostropovich. Here she's as unglamorous as someone who once played Aida can be while also maintaining this strongly magnetic, gently cantankerous presence.

Stop, or My Mom Will Shoot: It centers around the incongruity of an elderly woman surrounded by brutish young soldiers. So, of course, watching her handling an automatic weapon, demanding to be given a chance to try it, bossing everyone around, grumpily asserting her right to do as she pleases, is both pleasurable to watch and also somehow heartbreaking, too.

Color Correction: If you wind up seeing it, don't worry that there's something wrong with the color. It's intentionally color-filtered and brown. Nothing like it to make never-ending war look as dreary and grinding as it actually is.

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