Opening 21 Sep 2017
Newly widowed, 92-year-old German Eduard Leander (Prochnow) is on the train from Berlin to the Ukraine. He intends to locate his girlfriend of youthful days, when he was a German officer there, fighting alongside many Cossacks against the Russians. It is now 2014 and the last sign of Svetlana was a letter in 1964, fifty years ago. Contrary to plan, Eduard is not alone, but accompanied by his granddaughter Adele (Schmidt-Schaller). She failed her goal of preventing this insane plan, because the train took off before she could disembark. Now she is stuck on a 22-hour ride to Kiev, with no train ticket or passport. Sitting next to her is Lew (Tuisk), on his way home to the Ukraine after having worked in Germany. He is quite helpful with his knowledge of both Russian and German, a situation which becomes more intimate in several ways as the trip continues.
My first thought was, “Not another old guy’s film!” I’m thinking of The Hundred Year-old who stepped out of the window and disappeared or Monsieur Pierre Goes online. But, as director Baker Monteys says, “On their way through the Ukraine the story is no longer about Eduard’s past, but about Adele’s future.” And, yes, it’s a road movie but there are stops along the way, e.g., at Lew’s house or at Svetlana’s village, as well as flashbacks to daughter Uli (von Borsody) grumbling over her lack of family control as she works in her restaurant in Germany. Especially impressive are the scenes filmed on location in Kiev and the Ukrainian countryside, a decision not to be taken lightly, as during filming there was civil war on the border between the Ukraine and Russia, something which is also incorporated into the film story, as well as scenes from Eduard’s military service in this country during World War II. Very effective is the use of Russian without subtitles. While Lev is solving problems in his native language, we, along with Eduard and Adele, try to understand and impatiently wait for him to translate discussions. This is a good opportunity to enjoy excellent actors such as Jürgen Prochnow, who became famous in the film Das Boot (1981); he now lives in Los Angeles and has been s a US citizen since 2003. Tambet Tuisk is well-known in his home country Estonia. (Becky Tan)