(Welsh dialogue; English subtitles)
Welsh-language cinema adds another feather to its cap with “Leaving Lenin,” an engaging light comedy about a group of teachers and high school students on a snafu-riddled trip to Russia. Commissioned by Welsh web S4C, result has the look and feel of a theatrical feature and could enjoy modest outings at specialized sites, though use of subtitled Welsh dialogue could limit it commercially.
Simple story starts with the motley band being split up when the Russian train on which they’re traveling is divided in the middle of the night. The youngsters go on to St. Petersburg while their three teachers are carted off down a branch line to the countryside.
One sensitive student (Steffan Trefor) has a homosexual awakening with a Russian (Ivan Shvedov), despite the attentions of a Welsh girl (Catrin Mai). Meanwhile, the adult teachers are having their own interpersonal problems as they make they way to St. Petersburg.
The film is very different in style from director Endaf Emlyn’s previous feature, the semi-mystical “One Full Moon.” Though the use of Welsh dialogue for a foreign-set pic seems unnecessarily fastidious, the overall tone is light and easy, with not too much soul-searching: The spirit of Czech comedy is never far away. Only weakness is the script’s failure to make the adults’ adventures as involving as the kids’.
Performances are fine all around, with Sharon Morgan a standout as a wise, knowing teacher. Editing is smooth, and Ray Orton’s good-looking 35mm lensing of the Russian locations betrays no signs of the hasty five-week shoot.