vt The Disappearance
Russia, Ukraine / 93 minutes / color / Mostelefilm, Russkoe Schastie Dir: Yelena Strizhevskaya Pr: Valentin Opaliov, Vlad Riashin Scr: Lyudmila Pivovarova Cine: Andrey Kavardakov Cast: Dmitriy Dyuzhev, Olga Sutulova, Yelena Doronina, Viktoriya Fisher, Petr Savchenko, Oleg Kuznetsov, Mariya Pavlova, Denis Bespalyy, Svetlana Alekseeva, Lyubov Omelchenko, Gennadiy Shnyptev, Viktor Borisov, Viktor Bunakov, Nikolay Sakharov, Nataliya Korchagina.
An interesting Russian/Ukraine TV movie that—as its title might suggest—starts off with a premise similar to that of SPOORLOOS (1988; vt The Vanishing) dir George Sluizer and its lesser Hollywood remake, The Vanishing (1993), also dir Sluizer, but then veers off in a different direction.
Yevkaterina Pavlovna “Katya” Vetrova (Sutulova) is the boss of a small but successful company, Myssoh Ltd., that deals in freezers. Some seven years ago Katya married a senior employee, Sergey Borisovich “Serezha” Vetrov (Dyuzhev).
One morning Katya and Sergey set off for work as usual when Sergey, as they reach the car, suddenly remembers he’s left his cellphone behind. He dashes back to get it, and Katya waits, and waits . . . and waits . . .
Finally she goes back inside but, finding he’s not in their apartment and crabby elderly neighbor Aunt Dasha (Alekseeva) is prepared to swear he didn’t return, gives up and heads for the office, assuming confusedly he might have gone there.
But there’s no sign of him at the office either. Adding to the enigma is the fact that, as she’s informed by senior employee Andrey Igorevich Zhdanov (Kuznetsov) and secretary Verochka (Pavlova), a valuable contract has gone missing. Is it possible, as Andrey eventually suggests, that Sergey has absconded with the contract? The implication is that Sergey has run off with Another Woman.
That’s the conclusion, too, of Katya’s blousy best friend Mila (Doronina). Since the cops aren’t interested, the two woman mount their own investigation, separately or together interrogating the rest of the tenants in the apartment block, plus various old buddies of Sergey’s like Denis (Bespalyy) and Potapov (Borisov).
At last Katya strikes gold. Igor (Shnyptev), nephew of new tenant Olga Nikolayevna (Omelchenko), recalls his aunt chatting for fifteen minutes or more with Sergey on the fateful morning. Olga proves recalcitrant, but Katya learns that she knew Sergey because he regularly visited his wife and child at the building she’s just moved out of . . .
It emerges there’s a (somewhat) more innocent explanation for all this than there might at first seem. Will Katya step in to save the life of little leukemia victim Zhenia (Savchenko), cute product of a quick vacation fling Sergey had seven years ago with Yevgeniya “Nina” Konstantinovna Grekova (Fisher)? Or will she boot her faithless husband out and tell them all to go hang?
The latter part of Ischeznovenie is a bit Hallmark Movies, but the earlier portions are more than moderately rewarding, with some excellent set pieces. One involves Mila’s wheedling attempt to get information out of a bitch-on-wheels housing superintendent (uncredited) whom Mila rightly assesses will be, while impervious to pleading, responsive to a box of chocs and a few folded bills. Another sees Katya, on the phone, being watched by Irma, the family dog: while we hear Katya’s part of the conversation in the background, the camera focuses on the dog’s head moving rhythmically from side to side, following the movements of her mistress as she paces agitatedly up and down.
There’s also a hefty plug for the benefits of universal healthcare: the little boy’s lifesaving bone marrow transplant is effected for free in a Moscow hospital instead of his having to be sent abroad to have it done at a cost of €250,000.
Ischeznovenie is held together by an appealing performance from Olga Sutulova as Katya, ably backed up by Yelena Doronina as Mila. Good supporting performances come from Oleg Kuznetsov as Andrey, the office employee who for years has nurtured a secret passion for Katya and now feels free to articulate it; from Viktoriya Fisher as Nina, the racked mother of the seemingly doomed Zhenia; and from Svetlana Alekseeva as the garrulously bitchy neighbor Aunt Dasha. The direction and cinematography are crisp and competent without ever being inspired.