Russian film Yuri’s Day (Yuryev den) promises a lot, what with its soft focus and bleak atmosphere. At its base, however, there is really very little to recommend this dull and llifeless yarn that appears to be trying too much and suffers for its lack of focus.
Kseniya Rappoport is Lyubov, a middle-aged opera singer, well-known to almost all of Russia after many television appearances, but who has decided to move to Western Europe to pursue her career. After deciding to take one last visit to the village of her youth, she brings along her truculent son Andrei. His disappearance during their sightseeing will mean her plans are shelved as she desperately tries to convince someone to help her find him.
Yuri’s Day is long, and it feels really long due to its langurous pacing and close focus on character rather than plot. At well over two hours, it is hard to justify, and one wonders how successful it may have been with a harsher editor and forty-five fewer minutes. Scenes run long, while whole sequences add little to the progression of the story – there is ample padding here that could be trimmed without harm.
In spite of its prolonged running time, very little appears to be happening on screen, with director Kirill Serebrennikov apparently shooting for the subtle breakdown of his lead character’s psyche but perhaps erring on being too subtle. The transformation from successful, modern woman to rundown, slightly crazy villager is a little hard to believe, in spite of the director’s lavish attention to every little bump on the downward spiral.
Rappoport does a fine job of her rather thankless role, given she is allowed barely an ounce of natural appeal and her character arc goes from obnoxious to insane. She rarely waivers, hitting each mark for her director, and given this is a character study and the focus must remain on her from beginning to end, she really does perform well. Her supporting players all are adequate, with none being given any latitude to demonstrate their skill within the confines of their poorly developed characters.
The main problem is that the gradual mental decline of the opera singer is so dull as to be mind-numbing. Her increasingly bizarre behaviour is hard to relate to, even when considering what effect losing a child might have on a parent. Meanwhile, the village world she becomes involved in feels more like a freakshow than a real-life portrayal of Russian rural life.
Sometimes one can recognise the intent and admonish the failure, and so it is with Yuri’s Day. A character study of grieving mother losing her world and her mind may have succeeded, but for a multitude of reasons, in this case it just doesn’t.Rating: