A Room and a Half (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner06/05/2010

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 130 mins

Beautifully made and superbly written, this is an utterly charming and frequently magical drama that packs a powerful emotional punch.

What's it all about?
Directed by veteran animator and documentary filmmaker Andrey Khrzhanovsky, A Room and a Half (Poltory komnaty ili sentimentalnoe puteshestvie na rodinu, original title fans) is a multiple award-winning, semi-fictional account of the life of Nobel Prize-winning Russian poet Josef Brodsky (Grigori Ditiatkovsky), who was forced into American exile in 1972. Set in 1995, the film imagines the older Brodsky taking a trip back to his beloved homeland that his real life counterpart never made (Brodsky died in 1996), during which he fondly reminisces about his childhood and adolescence.

The Good
Khrzhanovsky seamlessly blends live action, animation (notably an animated cat who represents his creative impulse), stills, archive material and documentary-style footage to create a dream-like effect that is utterly mesmerising, heightened by a fabulously eclectic soundtrack that includes folk songs and old Russian tangos alongside classical music and pop songs. To that end, the film is strongly reminiscent of Terence Davies’ Of Time and the City, in that it presents a similar nostalgic love letter to the author's beloved St Petersburg, while demonstrating how the city, people and music of his youth shaped the artist he was to become.

Grigoriy Dityatkovskiy is excellent as the older Brodsky and there's strong work from Artem Smola, who plays the poet as a young boy. There's also terrific, scene-stealing support from Alisa Frejndlikh and Sergei Yursky as Brodsky's loving parents – the scene where they dance in the living room is just one of several highlights.

The Great
The film is packed with tiny details that will reward subsequent viewings, such as the fact that the trinkets Brodsky's father brings back from the Eastern Front are later incorporated into the delightful animated sequences. Similarly, Khrzhanovsky orchestrates several wonderful scenes, some of which achieve a breathtakingly magical quality, such as a sequence in which soldiers literally throw culture out of the window.

Worth seeing?
Inventively directed and beautifully written, A Room and a Half is an achingly nostalgic and powerfully emotional film that demands to be seen. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 22/10/2017 22:10

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