How I Ended This Summer

"Excellent"

How I Ended This Summer Review


This low-key drama shifts into a psychological thriller along the way, astutely capturing the mental strain of being in such an isolated setting. It's extremely understated, but also strongly gripping.

At an Arctic meteorological outpost, young scientist Pavel (Dobrygin) is board stiff from listening to music, playing computer games, swinging from antenna arrays and chasing rabbits. So his sardonic colleague Sergei (Puskepalis) gives him some responsibility taking telemetry readings and reporting back to the base. But Pavel doesn't take it very seriously. And while Sergei is out fishing, Pavel receives terrible news about his family that he's afraid to pass on because of Sergei's unpredictable temper. And when Sergei finds out he's not happy.

Both actors are terrific in the roles. Dobrygin is extremely effective at portraying Pavel's hilariously youthful energy and frustrated mental state, which turns into subdued panic and a very different kind of frustration.

Meanwhile, Puskepalis is wonderfully dry as the more experienced colleague, annoyed with Pavel for several reasons, mainly because Pavel is behaving like a tourist, only interested in writing a journal about the experience and not taking the work seriously enough.

Filmmaker Popogrebsky shoots and edits this with an assured hand that lets us vividly experience the place and the inner workings of these two men's minds.

Their interaction is fascinating, mainly because they don't seem to connect on any level. And while both are to blame for their disagreements, they're also both likable enough for us to hope that they can begin to find some common ground.

As Pavel's inner turmoil grows, we really feel for his struggle to do the right thing, and Popogrebsky beautifully keeps the tone intimate and raw, slowly deepening our involvement so that the film begins to feel all-encompassing, especially as the setting is both claustrophobic in its isolation and expansive in its otherworldly landscapes. And when Pavel flees the outpost, the film astonishingly shifts gears into a different style of film that gets our pulses racing even faster.

This is an exploration of irrational fear, and watching Pavel's disintegration in the film's final act is deeply unsettling. We worry less about what will happen if he's caught and more about his out-of-control paranoia. And Popogrebsky deserves credit for finding a way to tell this chilling story without resorting to cheap cinematic manipulation.



How I Ended This Summer

Facts and Figures

Genre: Foreign

Run time: 130 mins

In Theaters: Friday 28th January 2011

Budget: $2.5M

Distributed by: Film Movement

Production compaines: Koktebel Film Company

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 79%
Fresh: 34 Rotten: 9

IMDB: 7.0 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Aleksei Popogrebsky

Producer: Roman Borisevich, Aleksandr Kushaev

Starring: Grigoriy Dobrygin as Pavel, Sergey Puskepalis as Sergey, Artyom Tsukanov as Stas (voice), Igor Chernevich as Sofronov (voice), Ilya Sobolev as Volodya (voice)

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