Reviewed at Turin Intl. Young Cinema Festival (competing), Italy, Nov. 16, 1993. Running time: 63 MIN.
With: Angelika Nevolina, Andrei Rostovsky, Igor Bokin, Vsevold Silovsky.
Communist-controlled Russia looks like a party compared with the post-glasnost chaos of “I’ll Never Let You Go,” the work of thesp-turned-director Elena Konstantinovna Tonunc.
Made with a crew of two on coin allocated for a 20-minute short, pic has a lacerating intensity, harnessed to a compelling turn by Angelika Nevolina as a luckless waif. But the film’s technical rawness will limit post-fest exposure to specialized cultural venues.
Nevolina plays a young Muscovite who flees home at age 16 after her mother’s death leaves her at the mercy of an alcoholic father. Recounting her experiences later to an unseen listener, she recalls a life as sad and stark as the concrete apartment blocks it’s lived in.
Police brutality, pitiless exploitation at work, a bad marriage and the death of her children prompt a slide into theft and virtual prostitution.
Despite Nevolina’s narration, the story unfolds disjointedly. But Tonunc redresses the balance with observations on the grim alternatives available in a Moscow plagued by poverty and crime and stripped of human solidarity.
Intermittent use of jarring Western pop tunes also adds to the withering portrait of modern Russia’s unresolved identity. Tonunc’s VGIK film school graduation work won best film and acting plaudits, respectively, from Fipresci (international critics) and competition juries at Turin.