Despite its billing as the first glasnost-era Soviet comedy, LONELY WOMAN SEEKS LIFETIME COMPANION has no characters who loudly demand more democracy and freedom, and offers no digressions on what a bad guy that Joe Stalin really was. In fact, there is little in LONELY WOMAN to indicate
any particular political epoch, which is its strength. Its bleak look at single life achieves a depressing universality. The film's view of day-to-day Soviet life may even baffle viewers used to conventional media images of gray lumps living a dozen to a room and standing in line for hours to
purchase a couple of rotten potatoes. Though not wealthy, the characters, like their American "thirtysomething" counterparts, have the time and energy to worry about finding the right mates, and sometimes resort to desperate measures to do so.
LONELY WOMAN opens with Klavdia (Irina Kupchenko) venturing out during a driving evening rainstorm with the notice that gives the film its title. She posts the notice, which even includes her home address, in a number of public places; and she winds up with pretty much the kind of character one
would expect--a gruff, dirty, bedraggled hobo, Valentin (Alexander Zbruyev), who barges into her apartment that same night demanding money. Hardly a delicate flower, Klavdia reacts by bashing Valentin over the head with an ironing board. So begins the oddball relationship that occupies the center
of this light, low-key romantic comedy. When Valentin comes to, he protests that the whole thing was just a joke, but his sense of humor doesn't prevent Klavdia from kicking him out of her apartment. However, Valentin manages to keep finding excuses to show up on her doorstep. After a number of
invasions, Klavdia develops a hesitant affection for the homeless Valentin, and eventually she gives him an apartment key so he will have a place to rest during the day while he hunts for a job. She even buys him a suit, as much to make him presentable when they go out together as to help him in
his job search. At first mystifying, Klavdia's attraction to Valentin becomes more understandable as the film delves into her dreary daytime existence as a seamstress, work she's forced to bring home with her at night to help make ends meet. Imbued with some of the rebellious spirit that led
Klavdia to post her lonelyhearts notice in the first place, her friendship with Valentin (they never do become lovers) provides a dash of color in her otherwise drab existence and gives fleeting expression to her individuality. When a friend from work, horrified at the relationship, offers to set
Klavdia up with more suitable partners, Klavdia impetuously unleashes what are undoubtedly years of pent-up frustration over her life. Yet she isn't quite spirited enough to make a complete break with her dreary past, leading to the film's bittersweet, though sadly plausible, ending.
LONELY WOMAN isn't WHEN HARRY MET SALLY . . . , or even a DOWN AND OUT IN BEVERLY HILLS; Klava and Valentin are too real to fit comfortably into either of those Hollywood fantasies, both of which the film superficially resembles. Unlike their Hollywood counterparts, Klavdia and Valentin eke out
their existence as best they can. And they live in real places. Klavdia may live alone, but her apartment looks like a cramped afterthought, crudely carved out of what may once have been a one-bedroom "palace." What's more, the pair's yearnings are more rooted in the soul than in the bedroom.
There is no attempt, as there is in DOWN AND OUT, to propose a hearty tumble in the hay as a surefire solution to the characters' problems. What Klava and Valentin are involved with is a midlife crisis. Becoming more aware of their mortality, both look back on lives now closer to their end than
their beginning, and inevitably they find precious little to show for their efforts to achieve some measure of happiness. Ultimately, it is a shared existential inquiry that, more than any physical or emotional attraction, becomes the basis for their tentative relationship.
LONELY WOMAN is hardly a breakthrough film. Too often, it plays like an audition showcase for its two excellent leading players. Moreover, its script is perhaps a bit too flimsy to sustain a feature-length film; even at just over 90 minutes it feels slow-moving. But it is nevertheless a film with
enough sensitivity and poignancy to linger in the heart long after it has gone from the screen. (Adult situations, sexual situations.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1990
- Rating: NR
- Review: Despite its billing as the first glasnost-era Soviet comedy, LONELY WOMAN SEEKS LIFETIME COMPANION has no characters who loudly demand more democracy and freedom, and offers no digressions on what a bad guy that Joe Stalin really was. In fact, there is lit… (more)