Director : Vera Storozheva
Cast: Gosha Kutsenko, Love Tolkalina, Vladimir Epifantsev, Pauline Kutsenko, Irina Gorbachev
A winner of the Moscow film festival’s main prize, also belongs to the art-house category. The film is a story about two sisters who travel from the province to the capital, after the death of their mother, in a search for their father who left them many years ago.
Vera Storozheva’s film Compensation is about the perennial Russian problem of the “second family.” Two sisters living in Tambov have just lost their mother. Their father, Sergei, left ten years earlier and since then they have struggled with poverty and illness: the younger sister has a congenital heart condition that needed surgery and medication, and as a result, the family could not afford music school for the older daughter; and in the meantime, the mother has been dying of cancer. By chance, the sisters stumble onto information about their father, now a successful businessman living in Moscow with his second family (gorgeous wife, talented daughter). He is profiled by journalists, his Moscow apartment comes straight off the pages of glossy magazines, he drives an SUV—in other words, he is the very picture of glamour and success that, for the last ten years, he has mistaken for happiness. The daughters, now orphaned, decide to go to see their father, presumably to be reunited with him, reforming the happy family broken so many years before. They borrow keys to an empty apartment and, like all stock Russian film characters, arrive in Moscow from the provinces. Unsurprisingly for the viewers, when the two sisters, dressed in pretty pastel summer dresses with ribbons in their hair, suddenly show up at his front door, the father does not welcome them with open arms.
At this point, the film turns into a story of revenge and “compensation.” The oldest daughter, Lena—a tough tomboy with short hair who used to be an “Elf”—comes up with a plan to kidnap their half-sister and demand a ransom of two million “u.e.” [uslovnaia edinitsa, equivalent approximately to one dollar] that will help to alleviate the pain of their broken home and unhappy childhood. The police get involved, the father proves to be a good guy, the new wife proves to be a bad guy, and in the end there is remorse and the fatal outcome of bad decisions. And throughout, the film returns to the same unanswered fundamental question: why did the father leave the mother ten years before? Who, in other words, is to blame?
Reviewed by Lilya Kaganovsky © 2011 in KinoKultura