Issue 38 (2012)

Pavel Ruminov: I’ll be Around (Ia budu riadom, 2012)

reviewed by Irene Ulman © 2012

budu ryadom Pavel Ruminov’s I’ll be Around is this year’s winner at the prestigious Russian film festival Kinotavr. It is easy to see how it would have swayed the judges. The film is simple and moving, and has a luminescent quality about it—much of it thanks to the radiant and talented Maria Shalaeva, best known for her award-winning role in Rusalka (The Mermaid, 2007). In I’ll Be Around, Shalaeva shines as a single mother trying to find adoptive parents for her son when she realizes she is going to die.

Before he became the dark horse of Kinotavr, Ruminov had a reputation for being young, clever and cocky; some have even described him as a Russian Lars von Trier. His original art form is the music video, and he has a large body of work on Vimeo. His originality and notoriety had raised critics’ expectations but they were disappointed with Ruminov’s experimental features, like his horror flick Dead Daughters (Mertvye docheri, 2007). He has since said that he is glad that audiences had given his earlier films the thumbs down, because this turned him in a different direction as a filmmaker. With I’ll Be Around he found his style. He has probably also found a way to a larger, mainstream audience.

budu ryadomGiven the subject-matter, I’ll Be Around is a surprisingly uplifting film. One reason for this is that at its core it is about love. It works from the very first moment when Inna (Maria Shalaeva) picks up Mitia (Roma Zenchuk) from preschool. Their relationship is quickly established with just enough snippets of gesture and conversation to capture a world filled with warmth, humor and play, where Inna is a joyful participant in all the dinosaur rarara of her six-year-old son. Just one scene later, their world begins to fall apart. Inna discovers she has a brain tumor. Her challenge is to keep it all together while preparing for the inevitable, which means finding new parents for Mitia before it is too late. She supplies a video of Mitia to an agent to show to potential adoptive parents.

The video is central to the film in more than one way. Shot with a hand-held camera, I’ll Be Around itself looks like a home movie. Ruminov has shot his film in the same style as Inna would have shot her little movies of Mitia, which end up becoming a film within the film—the twenty-minute montage made up of six years’ worth of material that will help “sell” her son to adoptive parents. The video is all she will have left of the boy, plus a few objects that will remind her of him when he is gone: drawings, photos, toy monsters and a pink rabbit that says “I love you.” In a way, the film is about what any parent might experience when zooming in on their child with a digital camera, with a lot of love in those close-ups.

budu ryadomClose-ups are used here to a wonderful effect of intimacy and emotional focus. And this is not the kind of attention to detail that spells out what sort of neighborhood Inna and Mitia live in, how many rooms they have or what Mitia’s bed looks like; rather, it is about faces and the way in which light falls on a few treasured objects.

I’ll Be Around was, in fact, a re-edit of 150 hours shot for a yet to be screened four-part television miniseries. Ruminov carried the idea for eight years; for five of them he tried to find the right visual language. Much of it developed organically on set, with the actors encouraged to ditch the script altogether. At one point Ruminov made a documentary about cancer survivors, which would suggest that he had given plenty of thought to the way in which cancer is presented in his film. What emerges is a story that is heart-rending in essence, but which (despite the tears it elicits) shows the heartache in close-up, as it were, without forcing the viewer to experience it with every fiber of the body (as, say, does Lars von Trier in Dancer in the Dark). 

budu ryadomOne scene, in which Inna interviews the couples who have rung after viewing the video of Mitia, is actually funny. The interviews are intercut and we get sketches of all sorts of couples out there who don’t really have a clue. They’re great mini character sketches, taken straight from life, to give us a sense of so many inadequate people out there. But the film packs them all into just one scene. They are not the story. The story is how the mother manages to protect her son from all that badness. She actually finds the perfect couple. Perhaps that is why the film has been tagged as melodrama. I think the tag is unfortunate. The film is gentle rather than melodramatic and the people in it are too real, too well observed.

In one poignant scene, Inna returns from a chemotherapy session to find that the couple she has chosen to become Mitia’s adoptive parents are stepping into her shoes rather sooner than she is prepared for. And for just a short moment she reacts badly. None of this is spelt out: there is no need.

In one of the saddest scenes, Inna tries to prepare Mitia for what is going to happen (some of the dialogue here comes from Ruminov’s conversations with his own six-year-old son). Roma Zenchuk, it needs to be said, is wonderful throughout. So is Maria Semkina who plays the “replacement” mother, Olga. Altogether, a sweet and human film, with a fine cast, from a fine director.

 

Irene Ulman
Australia

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Works Cited

“Pavel Ruminov: Let cherez desiat’ snimu fil’m pro supergeroev,” Krasnodarskie Izvestiia, 22 June 2012

Pavel Ruminov speaks about I’ll Be Around

http://vimeo.com/2946868

 


I’ll Be Around, Russia/Ukraine, 2012
Director: Pavel Ruminov
Screenplay: Pavel Ruminov, Tikhon Kornev
Camera: Fedor Lyass
Composer: Aleksandr Ivanov
Editor: Pavel Ruminov
Designer: Ekaterina Shcheglova
Sound: Arkadii Noskov
Makeup: Valentina Bobb
Costumes: Aleksandra Soshalskaia
Executive Producers: Daniil Makhort, Anastasiia Alekseeva, Lera Mulina
Creative Producer: Anastasiia Ragozina
Producers: Aleksei Uchitel’, Kira Saksaganskaia, Georgii Malkov, Vladimir Zelenskii, Boris Shefir, Sergei Shefir, Andrei Iakovlev
Production: Enjoy-movies, Studio Kvartal-95, RockFilms
Cast: Maria Shalaeva, Roma Zenchuk, Maria Semkina, Ivan Volkov, Mikhail Krylov, Elena Morozova, Alisa Khazanova, Ekaterina Nikitina, Vladimir Kotov, Karina Resnianskaia

 

Pavel Ruminov: I’ll be Around (Ia budu riadom, 2012)

reviewed by Irene Ulman © 2012

Updated: 14 Oct 12