Issue 56 (2017)

Daria Krylova, Andrei Maiorov: Tomorrow Morning (Zavtra utrom, 2016)

reviewed by Tatiana Filimonova © 2017

After the fall of the Soviet Union, the production and distribution of children’s and youth films in Russia experienced a decline. Low revenue potential from theaters and lack of TV broadcasting time due to restrictions on commercials during children’s programming meant that comparatively few films aimed at children and teenagers were being made. In recent years, while the problem persists, the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation has been investing more money into co-funding films for young audiences, reflecting the state’s involvement in using culture to shape its youth. Tomorrow Morning is one of the latest attempts to re-create the vibrant Soviet youth film culture—the film is beautifully stylized to resemble the Soviet era—yet, apart from the novelty of the message, the film cannot compete with well-crafted Soviet children’s classics such as Elem Klimov’s Welcome, or No Trespassing (Dobro pozhalovat’, ili postoronnym vkhod vospreshchen, 1964) or Nikolai Aleksandrovich’s Breakfast on the Grass (Zavtrak na trave, 1979), both of which share a summer camp setting with Tomorrow Morning.

Perhaps the pedagogical university training of the film’s co-director, Andrei Maiover, prompted him to work on a youth film as his first independent project. Daria Krylova and Maiover have separately worked in roles such as co-producer and assistant director on several projects—including TV series, animation, music videos, a comedy and a thriller—however, Tomorrow Morning is the feature-length debut proper for both.

tomorrow morningTomorrow Morning narrates the story of first love between a teenage cyclist, Lekha, and a young synchronized swimmer, Viola. After an encounter on a train en route to neighboring sports summer camps, the youths go on a series of secret dates. The two camps’ directors, formerly pairs figure skating partners, have an ongoing feud and forbid any communication between their camps’ residents. Lekha sneaks into the other camp’s masquerade ball to make his feelings known to Viola. In a Cinderella-like development, the boy leaves behind his neckerchief and is later found out by the camp director, who nearly terminates Lekha’s training at the camp. Before Lekha’s exposure, however, the young couple continue to meet secretly, but Viola’s changing attitude to the boy makes him doubt her interest.

The audience eventually discovers a twist in the plot – Viola has a twin sister and both girls have been meeting with our protagonist. Unaware of this fact, Lekha accidentally observes the girl with another boy, and falls into a depression. The key dialogue of the film follows this incident: during a conversation with the camp director about his transgressions, the boy declares his frustration with intensive training, saying that “sports is all lies,” that he would rather live a normal life and spend more time with his family, lamenting that he does not even know what to talk about with others. Preparing to leave the camp the next morning—the “tomorrow morning” of the title—Lekha unexpectedly gets another chance at sports. The camp director declares a last-minute competition between two camps and he needs Lekha—the best cyclist on the team—to compete. Nearly winning the race, Lekha becomes distracted by thoughts of Viola and crashes into a ditch right by the finish. Viola blames herself for the accident and abruptly leaves the camp. At the hospital, Lekha learns about the twin but also about Viola’s departure. He dashes to the station and, having missed the train, takes to his bike for the final, improbable, 80-kilometre ride, trying to catch up with his love.

tomorrow morningTelling the story of fourteen-year-olds, the film’s 6+ age festival rating justifies the simplistic screenplay but creates an imbalance in representing adolescent characters. In contrast to some of the more powerful films about teenagers from the last decade—such as Valeriia Gai Germanika’s gritty Everybody Dies but Me (Vse umrut a ia ostanus’, 2008) and Eduard Bordukov’s action- and tension-filled blockbuster The Pitch (Korobka, 2016)— and even compared to recent children’s adventure films such as Aleksandr Karpilovskii’s I Give You My Word (Chastnoe pionerskoe, 2013), Tomorrow Morning falls short on several accounts. For a story that revolves around first love, the film almost completely lacks emotions. The infantile dialogue of the teenagers at the beginning of the film repels more mature audiences (e.g. the protagonist, upon seeing Viola by the lake, idealistically asks his friend: “What’s the most beautiful thing you’ve seen in your life?”). Running at merely 75 minutes of screen time (excluding credits), the film fails to introduce and characterize Lekha’s love interest in any detail until 22 minutes in. Most characters, apart from the protagonist, lack depth, blending into a faceless crowd of teenagers. Some of the attempts at comedy fall flat because of incessant repetition – too much time is spent focusing on a gullible gatekeeper and his old Soviet look.

While the film features many original musical compositions—an eclectic potpourri of different styles and eras, favoring electronic music—the soundtrack overall lacks cohesion: for example, the celebratory music at the start of the film evokes a Hollywood happy ending. Blatant voiceover (especially noticeable in the twin sisters’ parts) intensifies the perception of the girls’ acting as stifled. The film makes little use of Aleksandr Bashirov’s acting potential. In an episodic appearance, Bashirov is given the trite role of an alcoholic bike repairman who, instead of working, runs moonshine – alluding to Bashirov’s famous role in Sergei Soloviev’s 1989 comedy Black Rose is an Emblem of Sorrow, Red Rose is an Emblem of Love (Chernaia roza—emblema pechali, krasnaia roza—emblema liubvi).

tomorrow morningVisually, however, Tomorrow Morning is extremely pleasant. The muted color scheme lends the film a vintage look, and the bucolic, idealized setting among the pines and lakes of the Karelian Isthmus, untainted by the litter and traffic that characterize the area today, transposes the adult viewer into the nostalgic Soviet past, to the time of summer camps, nature, friendship, and sports. It is this visual aspect of the film that has garnered some positive reviews among adult online viewers – the film offers a charming representation of the ideal Soviet adolescent experience.

The film’s focus on sports training, including synchronized swimming, much loved in Russia, although idealized—see, for example, the chic car of the cycling coach—draws in fans. The Soviet vintage feel is intensified by some intertextual connections: the lineup scenes and the boy’s intended banishment from the camp allude to Klimov’s Welcome, or No Trespassing. The children themselves, wearing blue or yellow neckerchiefs, resemble young pioneers of the 1960s. Soviet optimism radiates through music and good weather. While satisfying adults’ nostalgic cravings for their “happy childhood,” it is doubtful that the film speaks to teenagers. The temporal limbo depicted in the film does not place the protagonists into the 2010s, but rather abstracts them from contemporary reality. Set supposedly in the present, the film consistently avoids any visual or semantic pointers of contemporary reality, such as electronic devices or newer cars.

The film’s value emerges in the last 25 minutes through the positive message that it carries for young people. As soon as the protagonist boldly admits his disappointment with sports and chooses to leave the camp, the message starts to shine through. Contrary to what viewers might expect, and unlike a Soviet film on a similar topic, the film does not promote sports competition and team spirit at any cost. The film hails the importance of human connections, the benefit of reading, the understanding that few achieve victories in sports, and that, most importantly, one should make one’s own choices in life. The protagonist’s ultimate race is with a train, one he could never win. Yet, Lekha boldly makes the choice of paddling on with his life.

Tatiana Filimonova

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Tomorrow Morning, 2016
Color, 80 minutes
Directors: Daria Krylova, Andrei Maiover
Screenplay: Mariia Tarnavskaia
Director of Photography: Artem Dzharaian
Composer: Nikolai Bichan
Music supervisor: Sergei Sokolov
Editing: Dmitrii Sliusarchuk
Cast: Dmitrii Vorobiev, Elena Simonova, Vasilii Ivanov, Igor’ Romanov, Nikolai Baloban, Aleksandr Bashirov, Viktoria Erokhina, Alina Erokhina, Oleg Lobodenko, Evgenii Churdalev
Producers: Viacheslav Khar’kov, Aleksei L’vovich, Aleksei Tel’nov
Production:  Kinofabrika, Aero Zed Prodakshns, with financial support of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation

Daria Krylova, Andrei Maiorov: Tomorrow Morning (Zavtra utrom, 2016)

reviewed by Tatiana Filimonova © 2017

Updated: 08 Apr 17