Director Valentyn Vasyanovych / 2021 / Ukraine

Viewer Advice: Contains high-impact violence and scenes of torture.

War and its personal fallout go under the microscope in this tale of one man’s struggle to live on in post-Maidan Ukraine.

Ukraine, 2014. In the wake of the Maidan Revolution and the retaliatory Russian occupation of Crimea and the Donbas, taciturn surgeon Serhiy signs up to fight on the front line alongside his ex-wife’s macho new husband. On the battlefield, Serhiy attempts to use his medical expertise to save his comrades – often in vain. And after he is captured by separatist forces, he must bear witness to a waking nightmare of violence. When he is eventually released, Serhiy must reconcile his traumatic experiences with a return to everyday middle-class comfort and parenthood.

Nominated for Venice’s Golden Lion, Valentyn Vasyanovych’s exquisite follow-up to his award-winning film Atlantis (MIFF 2020) is rendered through a series of vivid tableaux, whose splendour is tempered by the potent subtlety of lead actor Roman Lutskyi’s performance. While the film was completed prior to the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, it is nonetheless achingly relevant to the country’s current plight, unflinchingly confronting the lingering psychological scars inflicted by war and its accompanying brutalities.

“A singularly brutal film … There’s no doubt that Vasyanovych is a filmmaker of uncompromising boldness and brilliance.” – Screen Daily

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