Five people in modern-day Russia go through a 24 hour period. Irish writer/director Johnny O’Reilly brings us some very different tales from Moscow on the holiday known as City Day, ranging from an ill health famous comedian, a young girl besotted by her birth father, a businessman fighting to hold on to his businessman, an Old Woman about to be placed into a nursing home, and a love triangle. There is a loose connection to some of the stories but we live this day with the characters.
If I were writing this review 30 years ago I would be mentioning the Iron Curtain, which 30 years ago at age 11 I thought was an actual curtain, and that was before the medication. However it looks as though at the time of writing this review the curtain is no more, but you know I like the phrase, and looking at the news it seems we may be using it again soon. The desperate Moscow of the Curtain era seems to have faded a little but in Moscow never sleeps it is also clear that there are a lot of things that have not changed.
The big problem I have with this film is that the links that Mr. O’Reilly has with some of the stories here are so week that we are left uncaring towards the majority of the characters. That’s a shame, a real shame, as the performances cannot be faulted by anyone. It’s so rare that I get to say that about any film. Which is tragic in a lot of ways. The one time that every single cast member leaves everything on the screen and the film is just leaving me cold. Another sad thing is that there is plenty there to be developed into a film that could have just had me in tears for the characters and the situations, but I was just left with that awful feeling of ‘Meh!’ You know that feeling that you just don’t care about the film either way, which is reflected in the scoring of the film. I remember a quote that Rob Zombie made in an interview about how he hated films that left him with neither positive or negative feelings, at least with a negative feeling, coming out of a cinema and hating a film, there is something there. Here there is no feelings. Some characters there should have been less of while others could have had their own film.
One thing that I did love was the photography of the film, it’s rare that I talk about the technical side of film making as most of my reviews are about the emotional side of things, but here the cinematographer did an amazing job. While on the story side we get to see the new and the old attitude of the people of Moscow, the blatant corruption that is accepted, mixed with the ideals of the modern world. We also get to see the old run down parts of Moscow compared with the new buildings standing higher than the propaganda statues that were there during the communist reign.
This mixture in the setting at least aides the story in a way that is failed by the rest of the script. There could have been a stronger link like Robert Altman movies. You do feel that Mr. O’Reilly was aiming at an attempt to emulate the great Altman movies but this time around at least he’s failed. The film lacks a grand climax. A few character deaths and little resolution doesn’t cut it for me at least. There is one moment between the besieged businessman and his driver where they are talking about Moscow as a prison and there seems to be some form of recognition that the driver says something that changes the businessman’s mind, then nothing, not one thing happens after this scene that changes anything with that story. These moments, and there were a few more, could have been the spark to a more thrilling story, a more meaty experience at the dinner table.
I can’t tell you that Moscow Never Sleeps is worth paying into a cinema to see, I would watch it again if it were on TV, but I feel that it would leave me wanting to watch one of Altman’s greatest more than follow Mr. O’Reilly’s future films.
Director: Johnny O’Reilly
Writers: Johnny O’Reilly
Stars: Evgenia Agenorova, Rustam Akhmadeyev,Lyubov Aksyonova