Moscow Never Sleeps is a multi-narrative film that explores the lives of various individuals living in the largest city in Europe. Writer/director Johnny O’Reilly uses the hustle and bustle of the city to underline the intensity of his characters lives. That vibrant pulse, coupled with great performances, and a feel for modern Russia makes the film an enjoyable watch.
An aging movie star juggling a wife and lover, two teenage girls at odds, a woman in a marriage of convenience, a singer who must choose between a rich older man and a younger ex, a man taking care of his grandmother, and a businessman watching his empire fall. These different lives converge and intersect throughout the film, although the ways in which they do are not meant to be revelatory. Rather they convey the realities of city living and the influence of that city’s culture and history in our lives. The backdrop to all the events of the film is Moscow’s “City Day” celebrations. Parades, fireworks, concerts, and news commentary can be heard in almost every frame of the film yet the characters’ reactions to it is often listless. The connection to the city and its history is not engaged with directly although its accepted as omnipresent.
The effectiveness of the film with regards to demonstrating the underlying heartbeat of the city and the lives of these individuals lies in the editing. The film manages to glide easily from one story to the next without the joltiness that can come with moving abruptly from one to another. The performances and writing also help to mitigate choppiness because even with the brief moments we get the time is well spent. A knowing glance, a long sigh, a forlorn look out a window all give us more than enough backstory to each character to know where they are coming from and how the city has affected their life.
Moscow Never Sleeps is an experience film. Some will feel disconnected to it, unaffected by the stories, but I found it very reminiscent of recent books and articles I have read on Putin’s Russia. The yearning, the solemnness, the tough resilience of everyday people. The film ends with the idea of beauty residing in being able to choose your own fate. Whether that means embracing all facets of where you are, or leaving for good. Either way, Moscow flows ever onward.
Moscow Never Sleeps opens in Philly theaters today.
Author: Jill Malcolm
Jill is happiest attending midnight screenings with other crazy film fans at her local theater. Her other passions include reading, traveling to faraway places, cat videos, pugs, and jalapeño peppers. She is co-founder of the blog Filmhash.