An uptight engineer falls for a kooky heroin addict and discovers bohemia in helmer Sergei Potemkin’s weakly written but strikingly shot debut “Sunless City.” Pic’s title refers to St. Petersburg, the film’s setting and nearly another character in the drama photographed with a loving eye. Pseudo-gritty storyline could give pic slight youth appeal in Russia’s neighboring territories, but further afield only fest suns will shine on “City.”
Tobacco-factory employee Egor (Maxim Averin) starts dating flame-haired part-time actress Lucy (Julia Mavrina), but doesn’t feel comfortable with her arty set. Egor clashes particularly with her pretentious photographer brother Alex (Sergei Bezrukov), who is dying from an HIV infection caught through drug use. Though Lucy is clean at first, she slips back into her old habits and Egor struggles to get her off smack. This prompts much scenery-chewing as Lucy sheds the monkey from her back, though pic coyly abstains from showing worst ravages of withdrawal as seen in “Christiane F.” or “Trainspotting.” Excessive footage of Lucy’s theater troupe performing bores toward end. However, frequent magic-hour shots of the city as the couple or Alex roam around its streets constantly bewitch.