Review by Sean Boelman
One of the biggest sins that a film can make is to deliver a trailer that is substantially more interesting than anything the actual movie has to offer. The Russian film Row 19 is much less effective than its marketing materials, failing to take advantage of an intriguing concept to make anything more than a subpar horror flick.
The film follows a woman with a young daughter who is trapped on a plane in the middle of a turbulent storm, beginning to lose her grip on reality and bringing up substantial trauma from her childhood. It’s one of those horror movies that presents itself purposefully ambiguous because its goal is to catch the audience off-guard.
There is some decent suspense throughout, but the twist is so ridiculous that it almost completely ruins the effect of anything that came before it. At under an hour and twenty minutes in length, you’d think that it would move by pretty quickly, but it really drags between its three or four images that are genuinely disturbing.
Some of the best parts of the film are those which explore the protagonist’s trauma, but the things that writer James Rabb has to say about the theme are the exact same thing that so many other movies have said before. The short runtime and narrative structure prevent it from going into a satisfying depth in this regard.
The character development is also uneven. The protagonist is likable enough, but even her development is rather shallow. And all of the supporting characters are extremely bland and unmemorable. You’d think that they would at least make something compelling out of the other passengers on the plane, but they’re all highly archetypal.
Svetlana Ivanova’s performance is the only thing that keeps this thing running. Even in the most ridiculous moments of the plot, she manages to keep everything feeling grounded and emotional. It’s nice that she manages not to make anything feel phoned in despite the script being woefully underdeveloped.
For a genre picture that is largely confined, the movie looks a lot better than expected. There are some CGI moments that aren’t the best, but to hold it to a higher standard would be unfair for a project like this. The film does its job to create a few brief disturbing images that will freak out viewers but have a fleeting impact.
Row 19 is a less-than-stellar genre picture, although there are a few moments here that make it watchable. It’s a concept that has a lot of potential but none of its themes are explored in a particularly meaningful way.
Row 19 is now available on VOD.