For those who think life isn’t depressing enough, there’s “Living.” Rising helmer Vasily Sigarev (“Wolfy”) piles on the suicides and murders, ostensibly to argue that being alive is the most important thing, but he achieves the exact opposite by forcing characters — and the viewer — to wallow in despair’s darkest depths. Weaving together three spirit-crushing stories into one rather long though generally accomplished package will prove more than general auds can stand, nullifying even most fest chances unless Prozac offers freebies before screenings.With: Yana Troyanova, Olga Lapshina, Alexei Filimonov, Alexei Pustovoitov, Anna Ukolova, Irma Arendt, Konstantin Gatsalov, Dmitri Kulichkov, Evgeny Sitiy, Yana Sekste, Marina Gavrilova, Sasha Gavrilova. The three tales are given unequal weight, and initial p.o.v. shots are misleading. Artyom (Alexei Pustovoitov) is a little boy miserably living with his abusive mom (Anna Ukolova) and her new b.f. HIV-positive Anton (Alexei Filimonov) is stomped to death by thugs, traumatizing new bride Grishka (Yana Troyanova, “Wolfy”). Galya (Olga Lapshina) gets her act together enough to welcome her twin girls home from foster care, but the tots are killed in a bus accident before arrival. The Anton-Grishka story could have worked as a standalone, but every side character is nastiness personified and no one is allowed an iota of happiness. At least the dog doesn’t die.
A Koktebel Film Co. production. Produced by Roman Borisevich, Alexander Kushaev. Directed, written by Vasily Sigarev.
Camera (color), Alisher Khamikhodzhaev; editor, Dasha Danilova; music, Pasha Dodonov; production designer/costume designer, Liudmila Diupina. Reviewed at Rotterdam Film Festival (competing), Jan. 28, 2012. Running time: 118 MIN.