Introduced to the audience whilst attending a party of literature aficionados questioning her knowledge on all manner of writers, it is immediately obvious that Laura, a Finnish archeology student, doesn’t quite fit in. Living with her partner Irina, a literature professor at a university in Moscow, she longs for the idyllic life Irina has seemingly offered her. However when Irina pulls out of their planned trip to see some petroglyphs in Murmansk, Laura must go on her own, forced to brave the long trip on a sleeper train alone. But she isn’t alone, joined in her compartment by loutish miner Vadim, thus beginning a heartwarming tale of connection between two people caught adrift.
Based on Rosa Liksom’s novel of the same name, Finnish director Juho Kuosmanen’s new film has been described as the Russian/Finnish Before Sunrise, though it is far more akin to Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation in its portrayal of two lonely souls bonding over mutual sentiments of dissonance with the busy modern world around them. Though it takes for a while for those bonds to emerge as Laura is initially – and understandably – disgusted by Vadim’s virulent misogyny and drunkenness, Vadim amusingly necking vodka the very moment the train trundles into motion.
However, as is often the case, beneath Vadim’s veneer of masculine hardiness is a vulnerable little boy unsure of himself and where he fits in. Equally, Laura’s phone calls with Irina become as frosty as their surroundings, Irina’s disinterest pushing the budding archeologist’s growing insecurities to the forefront of her mind. Following a trip to Vadim’s grandmother’s, the two grow closer. By the end of their journey, they’re joyfully heading to the restaurant car to celebrate.
The final scenes are as touching and disarmingly tender as they are bracingly cold, the pair slipping and sliding on the ice as a blizzard sets in. The two central performances – Seidi Haarla and Yuriy Borisov – are layered and nuanced, the chemistry palpable. A charming tale of unexpected romance, by the end of Compartment No.6, like Laura in the final shot, you’ll be grinning ear to ear.
This review was written by Oli Gamble, member of the thatfilmbloguk team, American and Canadian Studies student, and co-host of the thatfilmbloguk podcast.