Strangers on a train. No, not that one – and not Before Sunrise, either. This is a more downbeat (and arguable more convincing) undertaking altogether: idealistic Finnish archaeology student Laura finds herself stuck in the titular sleeper compartment of a slow-haul Moscow-Murmansk train with very-far-from-idealistic crop-headed Russian drunk Ljoha, who’s on his way to a dead-end mining job. Can their initial mutual hostility be overcome? And will Laura get to see the famous Kanozero petrogylphs at journeys end? Terrific performances from both leads lend conviction to what director Kuosmanen has memorably described as “an Arctic road movie that takes place on the train”, and the understated-but-assured location shooting contributes to an overall sense of realism which allows the film to transcend what might otherwise have seemed like an overly neat clash-of-cultures setup.
93 % – Rotten Tomatoes
7.3 / 10 – IMDB
“Shot largely within the confines of a real Russian train, the film brilliantly captures the authentic air of its setting, placing the audience right there in that strange liminal space between stasis and motion, an environment that strikes a chord with both its central characters.”
“Beautifully believable performances from Haarla and Borisov add emotional weight, rivalling the nuanced naturalistic charm of Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy.”