How I Ended This Summer (12A)

Starring: Grigory Dobrygin, Sergei Puskepalis, Igor Chernevich
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The Independent Culture

Or: the loneliest desk job in the world.

Two men run a meteorological station on a remote island in the Russian Arctic. One (Sergei Puskepalis) is the hardened old pro who communicates to base via a crackly radio; the other (Grigory Dobrygin) is his reluctant, callow junior who's doing a kind of summer job.

Writer-director Alexei Popogrebsky evokes a brooding sense of isolation and danger – if a roaming polar bear doesn't get you, the radiation might – in the vast icebound landscape, stunningly photographed by Pavel Kostomarov. The unease between the pair is intensified when the younger man receives dire news from home for the older, and somehow contrives not to break it to him. It proceeds at a dour and Russian kind of pace, mildly intriguing without ever cranking up the pressure to become compelling, though the incidental details (how to gut an Arctic trout), the moody winter light and the performances lend the film a cumulative charge.