Living up to sometimes unfairly composed preconceived notions about Russian art, more precisely Russian filmography, Beanpole (Дылда in Russian) is not an easy recommendation by any means due to bleakness that it revels in. Set in the aftermath of World War II in Leningrad, director/co-writer (other writer being Alexandr Terekhov) Kantemir Balagov takes a look at two friends, Iya who's nicknamed ''Beanpole'' (Viktoria Miroshnichenko) and Masha (Vasilisa Perelygina), who are both suffering on their own with PTSD and trauma. The bleakness wasn't mentioned in vain, you see. In the beginning Iya is looking after a young boy named Pashka (Timofey Glazkov) who is then revealed to be Masha's son after she returns from the army. Iya suffers from episodes which are referred to as ''freezing'' and she is also infatuated with Masha who on the other is seeking stability of sorts, whether that comes from pregnancy or dating a wealthy young man. After setting all of these storylines in place, Beanpole itself becomes a bit too infatuated with style, ignoring substance at times.
Style is what the movie indeed has, plenty in fact, as scrupulously designed sets, costumes and locations indicate, mostly being brushed with the main colour palette of reds and greens on top of clinical whites. Everything feels coordinated and prepared with detailed eye so the immersion of the time period would take over, along with theory behind the colours which would highlight love and naturalism during dreary times in Soviet Russia. Focusing on two colours also reflect on the two main characters and actors portraying them. Perelygina is the stand out of the two as she really carries the film's emotional impact on her shoulders, whether that is the cold denial of a tragedy in the beginning or when revealing some of Masha's secrets.
As the contrasting colour in the wheel, Miroshnichenko unfortunately becomes the casualty of Balagov's over-directing after the beginning. Much of the dialogue serves its purpose at first but the second half is purely a ghost of that as the direction insists to use pauses and stares as answers to questions. Perelygina stumbles a few times because of this too but when it comes to Miroshnichenko, it is just constant agony to get things moving. Balagov opts to use Iya's episodes too many times which is baffling because during the third time it simply looks like an amateurish attempt to show some emotional resonance from Iya. The second half drags because of the combination of these things. Dialogue is terribly unrealistic during conversations, nudity becomes unnecessary as it looks to just fill empty spaces and all the intimacy took me out of the story because all I could think was ''I hope this film had a great intimacy coordinator''. That's not supposed to be your thought process when watching a film about two specific people, it also makes the implied romance feel shallow.
Smileys: Set decoration, Vasilisa Perelygina
Frowneys: Directing, dialogue, Viktoria Miroshnichenko
How are supposed to make a funny notion for an ending of your review about a film as bleak as this? I won't even try.