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The Crack Magazine

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Compartment No. 6

Director: Juho Kuosmanen

Stars: Seidi Haarla, Yuri Borisov, Lidia Kostina, Julia Aug

Adapting from a 2011 novel, Finnish co-writer-director Kuosmanen imbues a rugged energy into a familiar narrative. Laura (Haarla) is a lovelorn Finnish archaeology student leaving Moscow after an affair with one of her lecturers, and taking a train across the Arctic Circle to the town of Murmansk to see the ancient ‘petroglyph’ rock paintings. She is alarmed to discover that she has to share the dilapidated 2nd class compartment with Ljhoha (Borisov), a belligerent and increasingly drunk Russian labourer. Laura tires to kill time in the dining car, then in the comically cluttered 3rd class, but eventually must make her way back to the carriage where Ljhoha makes a lunge for her. The situation seems irreparable, then during an overnight stopover, Laura, out of a combination of sheer boredom and loneliness, accompanies Ljhoha on a social visit and they begin to forge a bond.

This is an agreeably earthy but uplifting depiction of two disparate lonely souls finding some common ground. Viewers may well bristle at the unvarnished depiction of Ljhoha, especially after he tries a Trump manoeuvre on Laura, but Borisov manages to locate a wounded soulfulness in his defensive, gruff character. Haarla is entirely relatable as Laura, as she blossoms from forlorn and downcast to luminous and mischievous. J-P Passi’s handheld camerawork is attentive but unobtrusive, while the excellent production design makes the cosily cluttered carriage look more like a relic of the pre-glasnost era than the late nineties when the story actually takes place. An amusingly sullen and officious conductor (Aug) adds to the Soviet-era vibe.

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