DIRECTOR: Juho Kuosmanen

CAST: Seidi Haarla, Yura Borisov, Dinara Drukarova, Yuliya Aug, Tomi Alatalo, Lidia Kostina, Sergey Agafonov, Nadezhda Kulakova

RUNNING TIME: 108 mins

CERTIFICATE: 15

BASICALLY…: A Finnish student (Haarla) forms a bond with a working-class Russian (Borisov) during a train journey to Murmansk…

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

With all the meet-cutes in Hollywood romance cinema, how often do you see one where, upon their first meeting, one vodka-soaked character just straight-up asks the other if they’re a prostitute? In the real world, any and all attraction would cease from that point onwards, but it is one of the ways in which Compartment No. 6 presents itself as an extreme opposite of regular expectations, before ultimately finding new and interesting ways of bonding two people who, by all accounts, should never be together.

The Finnish-Russian co-production first introduces us to Laura (Seidi Haarla), a Finnish student living in Moscow who is preparing to travel all the way to Murmansk to observe and study some notable petroglyphs. Once onboard the compartment train, she finds that her bunkmate for the journey is an obnoxious working-class Russian builder named Lyokha (Yura Borisov); he is, of course, the one who asks Laura that vulgar question, though she does manage to covertly teach him the Finnish phrase for where he can go in response. Unable to switch compartments, Laura is stuck with her less-than-desirable travelling companion, but eventually the two of them start to bond as the train moves from one destination to another, eventually forming a nice relationship based on respect and appreciation for one another, despite their vast differences.

Director Juho Kuosmanen, who also co-writes this loose adaptation of Rosa Liksom’s novel of the same name, is quick to shove aside comparisons to Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy with a stern, yet effectively stylish, grounding of her characters’ grimy situation. The atmosphere is hardly romantic, not just inside this tiny and personality-free compartment, but also outside of it with the snow-covered stations and cloudy skies being a far cry from the much more pleasant landscapes of Rome or Paris. A number of the passengers and pedestrians they encounter along the way are also pretty unpleasant, from being just plain rude and offensive, to being deceitful after at first appearing to be perfectly fine. For most of their trip, both our leads – but Lyokha in particular – rely on drinking heavily just to make it through to the end of the line, and given how miserable their surroundings are, you can’t exactly blame them.

Yet, Compartment No. 6 still finds the pleasance in unappealing places. The crux of the two lead characters’ relationship comes from how different their worlds are – she the straight-laced and determined bohemian student, he the drunk and disorderly blue-collar worker – which makes their eventual bonding all the more effective, without being so condescending about these respective types of classes. After a point, it’s easy to see how each of them makes the other person happy in unexpected ways, whether it’s their screw-it attitude or their world-weary knowledge, something that Kuosmanen and lead actors Seidi Haarla and Yura Borisov lean heavily into as these characters open themselves up more and more, often over a particularly strong bottle of local booze. The desire of both the filmmaker and the actors to show the vast differences between these two people, before then tearing down such walls and having them grow closer as the story progresses, is a sweetly human approach that makes it an oddly uplifting movie to watch.

While the third act perhaps drags on for a bit longer than necessary, Compartment No. 6 is a nice little story of two people finding each other from separate worlds, and in these dark times of division and war, it’s more important than ever for something like this to remind us all that, no matter where we come from, we’re still eager to connect with one another. That, and getting drunk on a long train journey is an effective way to pass the time.

SO, TO SUM UP…

Compartment No. 6 is a sweet romantic tale of two polar opposites forming a strong bond amidst harsh atmospheres, which contains a nice human message that deserves to be repeated in today’s divisive society.

Compartment No. 6 is now showing in cinemas nationwide – click here to find a screening near you!

It is also available to rent exclusively on Curzon Home Cinema.

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