A Long And Happy Life might be the title of the film, but it is certainly misleading and purposely so. I think the title is about the longing for a happy life, which is what I feel our main character Sasha (Aleksandr Yatsenko) wants. He’s moved to rural Russia hoping for that long and happy life, having a farm to build up and a recent new relationship. But things are not going to last here, as the political corruption is rearing its ugly head.
Sasha must battle against the state buying up farmland and offering compensation in return. Never mind how these sales will affect those who work the land. Sasha begins to have a change of heart with giving up the land because his workers will be left without jobs. They attempt to fight the system, but the agenda is far too big for them to handle or fight against. How do you fight the corrupt who have all the power?
This is a film that really hit me hard, it is extremely depressing and I imagine this story is quite universal and easily relatable to a lot of people. It really feels like there is no way out of this despair for Sasha, he soon realises that he can’t just think of himself and with the weight of his workers upon him he’s gotten himself into a hole he can’t get himself out of. He is full of pride and this is how he wants to fight this battle, but it really isn’t enough.
The film is beautifully shot; it really brings forth the rural area in which the film is set. The hand held technique is actually something that brings us right in, yet we feel extremely cold because this is quite an unpleasant situation. This might be a film that has a short running time, but it didn’t need to be longer, it actually successfully told the story and there was no rushing around either. I liked the contrast between the beauty of that landscape and the harshness of what these people were facing.
The themes of the film are quite clear; it is about the hardships people face in the country and for this instance it was about political gains and corruption that makes sure the every day person loses out. Sasha is that every man with issues to tackle, and someone we don’t want to see in the situation because he seems genuine. Our main actor is very good, as are the rest of the cast who convey their characters and the situations well. They all really felt very natural, and at times it feels like you are a fly on the wall watching something real. I commend the entire cast for their very natural and realistic performances, it really adds another dimension to this experience.
This is a really strong film, nicely written and directed. It is not an easy watch, and it will leave the viewer feeling a lot of things. Not a film for everyone, but certainly it is an important one. I really applaud the filmmakers for being brave enough to put this out there, I am sure it has and will turn a lot of heads and really bring to light what people have to face in the country.