COMPARTMENT NO. 6 (2021)
Starring Seidi Haarla, Yuri Borisov, Dinara Drukarova, Yuliya Aug , Valeriy Nikolaev, Polina Aug, Dinara Drukarova, Galina Petrova, Tomi Alatalo, Natalya Drozd, Konstantin Murzenko, Mikhail Brashinskiy, Sergey Agafonov, Lidia Kostina, Maria Kljukina, Igor Babanov, Denis Pyanov, Nadezhda Kulakova, Arina Mandrusova, Timofei Olkov and Maria Drukarova.
Screenplay by Andris Feldmanis, Livia Ulman, Juho Kuosmanen.
Directed by Juho Kuosmanen.
Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics. 107 minutes. Rated R.
With Russia back in the news again for all the wrong reasons as Vladimir Putin is flirting with the threat of invading Ukraine yet again, it is nice to see a film about how the Russian people live. The regular Russian people, not the oligarchs.
Compartment No.6 turns out to be a sweet and charming road trip; a hesitant, unlikely romance between two very different kinds of people who are stuck together by fate.
Actually, the main character isn’t even Russian. Laura (Seidi Haarla) is a Finnish anthropology student who has been studying in Moscow and is now taking a train across the country to the northwest port city of Murmansk to see the petroglyphs – some 10,000-year-old cave drawings. Her girlfriend was supposed to go with her but had to cancel at the last minute. Laura decided to go anyway, a plan she seems very unhappy about as she goes.
The trip does not seem to be overly well thought out. She has not planned for lodging during an overnight stop. She hasn’t changed the hotel reservation at her destination from her girlfriend’s name to her own. Neither of them bothered to find out that the petroglyphs are nearly impossible to reach in the winter and they should have come in the summer.
Laura ends up in a train sleeping compartment with Lyohka (Yuri Borisov) a rough-hewn Russian miner also traveling to Murmansk. Laura hates him almost immediately. He is obnoxious, overbearing and hits on her under the mistaken assumption that she is a prostitute. However, they are stuck together in a small room for a matter of days, and eventually they start to grudgingly get to know each other and start to care for each other.
It’s an odd coupling – and one that only leads to a single kiss throughout the film – and yet it is charming to see the two thaw towards each other while having little adventures on the train and in the towns where they stop over.
I have seen another review of Compartment No. 6 comparing the movie to the Before Sunset series. While there are definitely some similarities – strangers meeting on a train trip in Europe, two people largely cut off from other people, getting to know each other through conversation – in the long run Compartment No. 6 is more about the voyage than the destination.
And the voyage is quite intriguing. Getting to see the train system in Russia, which seems to be almost from a time warp to the last century, is even more fascinating than the blooming relationship. The old-fashioned sleeper compartments, the masses of lower-class patrons bunched together in a car full of open bunks, even the dining car are all wonderfully evocative.
The train itself is not the only thing that is nostalgic. Little things that are long forgotten in the western world are still precious to these characters – things like a cassette Walkman or an old camcorder.
Compartment No. 6 ends on a slightly ambiguous note. We never really know if these two people will ever see each other again after this shared adventure. However, whether this becomes a lifetime friendship (or even something more), or if these two are (to use a different type of travel metaphor) just ships that pass in the night – it really doesn’t matter.
Compartment No. 6 is all about making an unexpected connection. In that way it is endlessly fascinating and wonderfully human.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2022 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: February 19, 2022.