The Grand Prix is the second place honor given by the Grand Jury at the Cannes Film Festival. At last year’s festival this award was shared by two impressive films. The first is Asghar Farhadi’s exceptional film, A Hero, while the other is a heartfelt and beautiful movie from Finland titled Compartment No. 6. I recently had the pleasure of viewing the Finnish/Russian co-production from writer/director Juho Kuosmanen. The film is a winsome and lovable story about love and friendship shared by two, mostly incompatable people.

Seidi Haarla stars as Laura, a Finnish college student who is currently involved with an older academic at her university. Though Laura and her partner Irina (Dinara Drukarova) have their passionate moments, Laura often feels out of placed among her lover’s friends and colleagues. Also, there are times when Laura feels unsure of her relationship with Irina and if they realistically have a future together.

The two originally plan to take a trip together by train from Moscow to Murmansk to visit the Kanozero Petroglyphs. However, at the last minute, Irina has to back out, but encourages Laura to go on without her. As Laura’s train journey commences, she discovers that she must share a tight compartment with an uneducated Russian miner named Lyokha (Yuri Borisov) Very rough around the edges, and often uncouth in his behavior, Lyokha initially irritates and frustrates Laura, who begins to come across to him as a judgmental snob. Surprisingly, though, the lengthy time that they spend together draws them closer to one another in ways neither of them initially anticipate.

Based on the novel of the same name by Rosa Liksom, writer/director Kuosmanen, who adapted the screenplay with Andris Feldmanis and Livia Ulman, has crafted a lovely movie that hopes to prove that people from vastly different backgrounds can find a middle ground where love and friendship can blossom. Though the movie does have its slower moments, the more memorable ones beautifully express the joy and excitement that new friends can feel when they are having fun and are bonding at a deeper level. The movie also reiterates the importance of taking time out of one’s life to appreciate not only the simple pleasures, but also behold the natural beauty that exists all around us.

Both Seidi Haarla and Yuri Borisov perform exceptionally as Laura and Lyokha. The two actors superbly portray the initial antagonism/indifference that they feel for one another and they wonderfully develop their non-relationship into something more touching and poignant. Their gravitation toward one another feels quite natural and comes across as genuine. It truly is delightful to see this relationship evolve and these two talented actors bring the perfect delicacy and nuance to their characters.

Compartment No. 6 is currently playing in Austin theaters and is one of those intimate and charming films that expresses so much through simple scenarios with superbly developed and realized characters. It is a lovely movie I highly recommend.

Leave a comment