Based on the original idea of Michael Apted – the 7UP series – Sergey Miroshnichenko has filmed a group of Russian kids when they were 7, 14, 21 and now 28 years old. The two-part series (each of them around 100 mins. long) presented at the Message to Man festival in St. Petersburg is an impressive piece of work that you just take in piece by piece = person by person, amazed to experience how much history has played a role in their lives, that started when USSR existed and took a completely different direction when the empire fell apart.
As in the work of Michael Apted (who now films kids who are in the 50’es!) Miroshnichenko cuts back and forward in time to let us see the 7 year old innocent having hopes for the future, the 14 year old having discovered more of the world including the opposite sex, the 21 year old who has already had the first child, and changed work several times and the 28 year old who divorced or has moved to another country – and did, in most cases, not have their child hopes fulfilled. There is drama, there is sadness but also happiness, and there are critical comments to Russian politics or religious commitments or… yes, they are like you and me, but their lives have definitely been destined by the outer circumstances. Like the Georgians, like the Lithuanians who lived in the same country when they were born but in independent republics when they were 7.
However, what comes out strongest in the films – where the director goes from person to person, with in-between-montage sequences that have a group of them comment on the same theme – is the emotions conveyed to us like (first part) the small boy Andrey, who when 7 do not have his parents, who get adopted to one family abroad and then to another one in the US, a boy marked by his past, and a young man who sits down as a 28 year old saying that he does not want to be filmed any longer. For personal reasons that he does not talk about. Heartbreaking as many of the stories are at the same time as you are impressed by the reflections that they make as kids or as grown-ups. Or (second part) the twins from St. Petersburg with their gamin faces constantly in trouble in opposition to each other, desparate to have a good life but not achieving a lot of what they hoped for. Fun and sad at the same time.
It is difficult to make a film with so many characters but Miroshnichenko succeeds to have the narrative go in a smooth rythm, and in a warm tone, with fine associative ”bridges” and with a voice-over that glues it together when necessary. You learn so much about Russia, well about life watching this work.