Review by Adam Donato
Compartment No. 6 was the Grand Prix winner at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival. That alone should be a justification to give this movie a watch. Juho Kuosmanen had previously directed The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki back in 2016, which also received awards recognition. This movie is based on a novel written by Rosa Liksom. Riddled with issues due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s a miracle this movie was even finished.
Seidi Haarla stars as Laura, a woman who departs from her love on a train and has to endure being seated in the same compartment as a rude drunk. The rude drunk is a man named Ljoha, played by Yuriy Borisov. Laura resists communication with Ljoha before letting down her walls and finding herself relating with this man. It’s a really cute story where we get to flesh out these two characters as we see them connect over their troubles in life.
The two leads are both great in this movie. Ljoha looks almost identical to James McAvoy as Kevin Wendell Crumb. It’s just a bald, white man in good shape, but especially during his more eccentric moments, the resemblance is there. Laura is a much more relatable character as Ljoha is quite unlikable for the first half of the movie. What’s more relatable than being put into an uncomfortable situation when traveling. Other people are so annoying and the workers have zero patience. Every annoyance Laura has to endure cuts to the core. Her turn to opening up to Ljoha feels earned as it’s not until he does several acts of good will to counteract the fact that he ended their first conversation by asking if she was a prostitute.
At a solid 107 minutes, the only part that feels unnecessary is this man that Laura allows to stay in their compartment after the train station clerk was impatient with the man’s inability to speak their language. Usually movies like this have that cliche moment where the two leads face a major setback in their relationship that brings us into the third act. This setback is usually an extremely contrived situation. Here, Ljoha comes off as jealous of this man who is objectively more attractive and plays the guitar. Yeah, that’s the song that Bill Nighy sings in Love Actually. Cut this fifteen minute detour to give us a crisp ninety minute runtime and it’s golden.
During Bong Joon-ho’s Oscar acceptance speech, he pleaded that American audiences would open themselves up to so many more quality films if they were willing to read subtitles. Compartment No. 6 is certainly a movie that falls under that category. It's a sweet story about two random people coming together, working past their differences, and leaving a positive impact on one another. The ending of this movie is sure to leave you with a smile on your face. It wouldn’t be surprising to see this picture in the Best International Film category come Oscar season.
Compartment No. 6 is now playing in theaters.