Roads to Koktebel (2003)

“I slackened off.”

Roads to Koktebel is a bleak Russian road film that follows the misadventures of a father (Igor Csernyevics) and son (Gleb Puskepalis) who are walking to the town of Kotkebel located in Crimea. While the film doesn’t immediately address the circumstances that led to this dire scenario, as the story unfolds, it becomes apparent that the father’s life began to unravel after the death of his wife. Koktebel is the father’s hometown, and as they walk towards their goal, carting along an old, tatty tent, and a few bags of clothing, Koktebel becomes a sort of Shangri-La–and if they can just reach the town, the assumption is that everything else will sort itself out naturally.

The father and son scavenge what they can find along the way, and throughout the miserable journey, they meet a variety of individuals and strike up relationships–including a railway inspector, a hostile homeowner, and a lonely doctor. Throughout it all, the son rather skeptically and stoically assesses his father’s behaviour with a dour, jaundiced eye. He wants desperately to believe his father’s stories about Koktebel, but also knows from bitter experience that his father tells tall tales.

At times depressing, and undeniably bleak, The Roads to Koktebel is well worth watching for all Russophiles out there. Dialogue and plot are slight and instead subtle glances and unspoken words reflect the frequently painful relationship that exists between the father and his troubled young son. Directed by Boris Khelnikov & Alexei Popogrebsky, the film is in Russian with English subtitles. If you like this film, I also recommend the Russian film The Return.

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