This conflict film from Ukraine was made earlier than the full-scale invasion in February, and tells the vital story of how Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting in eastern Donbas since 2014. Director Marian Bushan co-wrote the script with schoolteacher-turned-soldier Mykola Voronin, apparently impressed by a few of his precise experiences. Their story inevitably resonates, however I watched it with the marginally sinking feeling of witnessing uncooked fact being fictionalised into bland drama with all of the conflict film cliches within the guide.
Ukrainian musician and actor Aldoshyn Pavlo is a soulful lead as Mykola, a shaggy-haired pacifist hippy who teaches highschool maths and physics. Mykola has moved to depopulating and deindustrialising japanese Ukraine to reside off-grid in a rickety shed together with his pregnant spouse Nastya (Maryna Koshkina). Within the movie’s cheesily idyllic opening scenes we watch her idling her days away whittling wooden and sketching wildlife. The couple don’t have a TV or telephone, in order that they miss warnings of the upcoming Russian invasion. When Nastya is savagely killed, Mykola joins a volunteer battalion and swears revenge on the Russians who murdered his spouse. He’s nicknamed “Civvie” by Ukrainian officers who suppose he’ll final per week within the military.
As Mykola switches into warrior mode, the coaching scenes are predictable – the push-ups within the rain, pumping weights, scrambling underneath netting on impediment programs. His mild good-looking face is quickly chiselled into fierceness, china-blue eyes glinting with rage. At first, officers snicker at how hopeless he’s with a gun; then in fact comes the triumphant scene the place he exhibits all of them what he’s fabricated from, dismantling and reassembling an AK-47 in 20 seconds blindfolded. Ta da. After that Mykola earns the nickname Raven and turns into a sniper.
As a conflict film written by a soldier this materials feels oddly missing in authenticity and authority. And but it’s a noble try to honour the resilience of Ukrainians and the braveness of bizarre folks like Voronin, combating for freedom.