Quick Thoughts: I Won’t Come Back (Ya Ne Vernus, 2014)
This is a film shot in a variety of countries, made by an Estonian filmmaker, but will serve as our Belarusian film of the series.
I Won’t Come Back is a pretty terrific film. Up until the third act, I was eager to write that this is a perfect film with no true flaws; it is incredibly shot with simple, reserved cinematic language, strong characters, some great writing and a truly compelling narrative. This falls apart ever so slightly with the climax of the film as it moves through its final act, however. In such, there are a few too many plot beats squeezed into the final 20 minutes that are not handled very well by the structure of the narrative as well as its tonal arc. I Won’t Come Back was nonetheless a highly resonant film that is brilliant in many ways.
The greatest aspect of this movie is its exploration of home, not just in a material sense, but an existential and emotional one. We see this through our main character, Anya, who is an orphan that develops into a secluded, yet highly intellectual, young woman. Her emotional seclusion is emphasised when she becomes a lecturer’s assistant in grad school. In developing a relationship with the lecturer, she seemingly attaches herself to some kind of father figure with links to a disintegrating family (which he is clearly on the periphery of). This implies that Anya not only has a deep-seated affinity for broken homes, but also unreliable figures – which explains why she is so emotionally secluded. This comes to a crescendo when an old friend from her orphanage shows up at her house and asks her to hold onto a package for him – which contains drugs. He is quickly arrested and the police are about to take in Anya, but she manages to escape. From here she pretends to be a prostitute so that she can be brought into a police station where she fakes a new identity, claiming that she is only fifteen. This leads to her being put back into the care system – which emphasises that she is attached to an unhealthy idea of a broken family and home as her singular point of return as well as all she knows or is comfortable with. However, it’s here where she meets a younger girl who she eventually has to run away from the care home with, leaving the rest of the narrative a road movie in which they try to get to the younger girl’s grandmother’s house in Kazakhstan – all of which sets up new themes of responsibility and reason.
Without delving into spoilers, it is the exploration of attachment and responsibility that makes this narrative so poignant, its end point being a restrained evocation of finding and establishing new beginnings; a new concept of home that Anya’s life may revolve around so that, when home comes calling, which homes and pasts inevitably seem to, her life isn’t devastated. And so, it is because of this profound exploration of, to reference the famous line from Magnolia, a past not being done with you, that I can’t help but recommend I Won’t Come Back.
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