The Woes of War

Stars: Roman Lutskyl, Nika Myslyts’ka, Nadiya Levchenko, Andriy Rymaruk, Oleksandr Danyliuk, Andrii Senchuk and Ihor Shulha
Director/Scriptwriter: Valentyn Vasyanovych
Cinematography: Valentyn Vasyanovych
Arsenal Films/ForeFilms/Arthouse Traffic (Ukraine)
Rating: R
Running Length: 124 Minutes
Language: Ukrainian with subtitles
Rating: R
Nominated for Golden Lion Award 78th Venice International Film Festival 

Valentyn Vasyanovych could be called a complete film-maker.  Not only does he write and direct “Reflection,” but he edits and is the cinematograper, also.  There is no composer listed for this film. Vasyanovych is noted for the 2019 film, “Atlantis” that won numerous awards at that time. The theme of this film is about the Ukraine, which is headline news in 2022, and centers on what it is like to have been a captive for the other side, come back, and try to adjust to life---that has new meaning in this vocabulary of war. Roman Lutskyi portrays Serhiy, a surgeon who is captured in 2014 and has his life completely changed duringr this continuing war.

“Reflection” begins in 2014 where Serhiy (Roman Lutskyi) who is a surgeon is at his young daughter’s birthday party. Polina (Nika Myslyis’ka) and her mother, (Serhiv’s ex-wife) and her boyfriend, Andriy (Andriy Rymaruk) are there. There is a difference between the two men. A surgeon on one hand who seems mild, and a soldier (Andriy) on the other hand, who has a rough exterior. Everyone gets along, though. There is a war going on with Ukraine against Russia and eventually Serhiy enlists and then, woefully, is captured. What happens next is graphic, but Serhiy comes home, eventually. What he discovers there is not what he left behind. His own emotions are tainted by war and seeing what this war has done to his daughter. Can there ever be a family here again?

What happened in 2014 is happening now in the Ukraine, and this story could be told over and over and over again, as the war between a small territory and the large Russia continues. What is shown is the devastation not only of the cities, but what it does to people. One of the jobs Serhiy had while in captivity was piling bodies for cremation. The memories linger and what to do when there are memories of happier times for Polina, only to have the realization – every time you look out a window – that it is war again.

The type of photography that is used morphs from a pleasant scene into something not so pleasant, such as paintballs against a wall becoming shattering bullets. Sometimes the camera stands still and sometimes it moves, giving a somber view of life.

Performances are well done from Roman Lutskyi’s Serhiy, who seems mild at first, but does have a backbone of resilience. Andriy’s portrayal of the soldier is that of a rough man, used to combat, who still has time to be at a young girl’s birthday party.  It is Nika Myslvis’ka’s Polina that stands out, as she tries to cope with a new existence, not knowing what happens to her friends, dealing with the passing of others and herself, on the cusp of young womanhood. The woes of war.

This film is being newly released in the United States and the war referred to in the film is the Russo-Ukrainian War of 2014. As you can see, it continues.

Copyright 2022 Marie Asner