I got lost in this Russian film. Not lost as in ‘so absorbed with the story I lost sight of myself’, lost as in ‘I have no idea what’s happening’. It started well. We are in the 1980s Soviet Union watching children practicing to become Pioneer Heroes, the youth movement modelled on Lenin and the values of the Soviet Union. Three in particular we get to know – Sergeyev who wants to be like all the other kids but also wants to be a hero, Katya, who struggles to keep her grandfather’s bootlegging a secret as it is against the rules of the PH, and Olga, an anxious girl who relies heavily on Katya’s confidence and decisiveness.
We then meet the three as adults. None seem satisfied – Olga is in therapy, Katya is dating a married man and Sergeyev seems detached from the emotions of life. We switch back and forth from the past to the present and our understanding of how each one got to where they are now slowly builds. Slowly, I said. It’s possible I shut my eyes, just for a few moments, in the quiet bits. I don’t feel like I missed much dialogue, but I think I missed aspects of the thread of the film and felt a bit off-kilter all the way through.
The penultimate scene, in many ways, brought it all together for me and I found it quite a powerful moment, realising what the message of the film was. I loved the cinematography and production design of the 80s scenes, they contrasted well with the monochrome present. The character of Katya, in particular, shines in this film. You can see in her the zeal to be heroic and an ever-present optimism that it actually might be possible.