(English, French and Russian dialogue)
The photogenic Ukraine stands in for the whole of the U.S. and the frozen Yukon, circa 1928, in “The Telegraph Route,” a leisurely road movie based on the true story of Lisa Alling, a Russian-born chambermaid who walked from New York City to Siberia. Attractively shot, agreeably goofy pic should make a pleasant addition to fest and tube slates that favor quirky tales of stubborn determination.
Elena Safonova (“Dark Eyes,””The Accompanist”) gives a charming performance as the single-minded, penniless trekker with a terminal case of homesickness. After tending to one too many drunken revelers welcoming Charles Lindbergh back to Gotham, Alling sets out, on foot, for her distant birthplace.
Once off the beaten track, privation and deadly cold don’t seem to phase Alling as she heads for the Bering Strait by following telegraph poles. She grabs warmth, food and a bit of romance — including a brief idyll with a dashing young journalist (played by Charlie Chaplin’s youngest son, Christopher) — whenever they present themselves. Alling never explains her mission but ends up winning the viewer’s respect.
Scripter/helmer Liliane de Kermadec, making her first theatrical feature since “Aloise” played Cannes in 1975, took her inspiration from a brief magazine article about Alling.
Once one grows accustomed to allegedly American but somewhat Slavic-looking characters named “Mike” and “Billy” speaking French, pic weaves a spell in which period costumes, cars and trains add up to a vintage vision of a sprawling land populated by kindly individuals, in which anything was possible.