Compartment No. 6 (2021)

Kuosmanen’s wintry sophomore feature will satisfy patient viewers looking for a rewarding road trip (on tracks) as a disheartened Finnish woman acquaints with a feisty Russian man whilst travelling on a train from Moscow to Murmansk. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review #2,391

Dir. Juho Kuosmanen
2021 | Finland | Drama | 107 mins | 2.39:1 | Russian & Finnish
M18 (passed clean) for language and some sexual references

Cast: Yuriy Borisov, Seidi Haarla
Plot: As a train weaves its way up to the arctic circle, two strangers share a journey that will change their perspective on life.
Awards: Won Grand Prix & Prize of the Ecumenical Jury (Cannes); Nom. for Best Picture – Non-English Language (Golden Globes)
International Sales: Sony Pictures Classics

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Unlikely Friends; Human Connection
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse

Viewed: Screener – Singapore Film Society Showcase
Spoilers: No

From Juho Kuosmanen, the new emerging voice of Finnish cinema, Compartment No. 6 is his sophomore feature, a follow-up from 2016’s The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki

Once again winning an award at Cannes, this time the Grand Prix in the main competition, Kuosmanen’s latest should whet the appetite of viewers looking for a rewarding road trip (on tracks). 

Much of the film is set on a moving train chugging through wintry surroundings as two strangers acquaint themselves with each other.  It’s not all smooth-sailing of course—sparks do fly as Laura, a disheartened Finnish woman shares the same compartment as Ljoha, a feisty half-drunk Russian man. 

Compartment No. 6 could easily fall into the trap of a conventional ‘opposites attract’ narrative, but then this is an arthouse film—the characters aren’t in a fairy tale and Kuosmanen gives us more than one odd detour along the way. 

“Why are you on this train alone?”

It also requires some patience but it isn’t a slow film; one might describe it as measuredly-paced, which allows us to appreciate the journey rather than the endpoint. 

Seidi Haarla who plays Laura is particularly outstanding, delivering one of the standout performances of the year, and mostly in the Russian language.  Travelling from Moscow to Murmansk, we get to see how cold the environment is as the characters edge closer to the Arctic Circle. 

Rather quaintly, Compartment No. 6 is set more than thirty years ago, a much simpler time when payphones were the only way to call someone in public, and when long train journeys hold the prospect of meeting a stranger that might change the outlook—and possibly trajectory—of your life. 

Grade: A-


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