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MASHA (2020, RUS) – 6.5/10

 

This combination of coming-of-age drama and thriller takes us to an unnamed Russian city in the nineties where 13-year-old Masha grows up. Her corpulent uncle is the head of the local criminal organization, and Maša grows up in the company of very shady types. Maybe she is not (yet) clear about what kind of team she is around, but it is obvious to the viewer at first glance that they are typical Russian gangsters from the leaden nineties, for whom killing is the same as drinking brandy in the morning for a normal person. The uncle and his subordinate savages are sowing fear throughout the city, and Maša is almost the mascot of the whole vicious team. She sings to them, dreams of becoming a singer one day, and the playful kid seems to idealize her killer uncle, probably completely unaware of what is happening around her.

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However, Maša will soon become aware of the kind of team around her and that an environment where everyone carries guns, where guys with shaved heads smash the heads of anyone who looks at them the wrong way, is not exactly the most normal environment for a girl her age. She will understand that something wrong is going on when she unknowingly drags a year or two older boy whom she likes into that society and when he becomes a member of this wild gang. It was “Maša” and the debut feature screenplay and directorial work for the Russian filmmaker Anastasija Palčikova. And although the story here is interesting, and the balance between the realism in the depiction of that failed Russia of the nineties and the dreamy view of the world of a curious 13-year-old girl from whose perspective we follow the whole story is finely achieved, the rest is still somewhat vague and unpolished.

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