Stars: Yuliya Vysotskaya, Yulia Burova, Sergei Erlish, Andrei Gusev
A gripping character study as well as illuminating historical drama, veteran Russian director Konchalovsky’s latest picture revolves around the massacre that occurred in the Russian city of Novocherkassk in 1962 when the authorities fired on protestors who were demonstrating against increasing prices.
Julia Vysotskaya is Lyuda an attractive forty-year-old Soviet true believer, committee member and single mother who lives with her rebellious eighteen-year-old daughter Svetka (Burova) and grouchy elderly father (Erlish). Although Lyuda is frustrated by the food shortages, she puts them down to Khrushchev’s weak leadership and pines for the more centralised, uncompromising rule of Stalin.
After the shooting, Lyuda initially complies with the committee gagging order, but when she discovers that Svetka has gone missing after taking part in the protest, she begins a desperate search through the blockaded city. Meanwhile, the authorities conduct mass arrests in an attempt to suppress the truth. During her search Lyuda finds an unexpected ally in handsome KGB operative Viktor (Gusev).
The austerity of Khrushchev-era Russia is impressively rendered in suitably stark black & white, but the gloom is tempered with some dark humour at the expense of buck-passing Russian bureaucracy and in the wry conclusion. Konchalovsky’s nuanced and even-handed minded depiction of events is evidenced with the inclusion of sympathetic KGB man Viktor. In a towering but controlled performance, Vystotkaya never attempts to elicit our sympathy as she charts Lyuda’s painful journey from committed apparatchik to distraught and disillusioned mother, ensuring the transformation hits harder when it comes.
‘Dear Comrades!’ is available to stream on Curzon Home Cinema from 15th January.