Five years after their year together in Barcelona (in The Spanish Apartment), the friends Xavier (Romain Duris), William (Kevin Bishop), Wendy (Kelly Reilly), Martine (Audrey Tatou) and Isabelle (Cecile de France) reunite for a wedding in St Petersburg, their carefree days behind them, and now close to thirty. Xavier is a struggling writer who dreams of having the perfect career and the perfect woman. He is still in touch with his ex-girlfriend Martine, but is living with Isabelle, now a successful gay stockbroker. When he has to find a British writer to work with him, he goes to live and work with Wendy in London. Dividing his time between London and Paris, where he is ghostwriting the memoirs of a sexy and spoilt 24 year old supermodel, Celia (Lucy Gordon), Xavier struggles with his attraction to both women, slowly realizing he must grow up.
Review by Louise Keller:
Universal in its theme, Russian Dolls is an exhilarating film about the mysteries of love. The vibrant characters that first met in Cedric Klapisch's The Spanish Apartment in 2002, when they shared an apartment in Barcelona, come together again. This time, the film is set in Paris, London and Moscow, and we get a great sense of place in each. Life isn't going to plan for Xavier (Romain Duris), who still has the stars of idealism imprinted in his mind. He wants to write a novel, but is stuck writing scripts for TV soaps, and his notion of finding the perfect woman is fast becoming like a vinyl that keeps getting stuck.
It's a rich and enticing story beautifully realised with an emotionally pertinent soundtrack and a dense sense of romanticism, fantasy and good humour. We shed some tears and feel the elation as relationships start, end and springboard into a different dimension. Ever charismatic, enigmatic Duris holds our attention as he struggles with the ups and downs of work, life and his relationships. There's his ex-girlfriend Martine (Audrey Tautou), the smiling shop assistant Kassia (Aïssa Maïga), lesbian Isabelle (Cecile Le France), the leggy Paris model Celia (Lucy Gordon) and the English scriptwriter Wendy (Kelly Reilly). Passion, lies and devotion all spiral like an emotional cyclone.
The relevance of the film's title is revealed as Xavier battles with his laptop in a train, as he jots down notes depicting his life and thoughts. It's a lovely moment, when all the pieces start to fit, as the mix of flashbacks, recollections and collection of encounters all collide.
Russian Dolls is an involving and uplifting encounter. Nothing is more powerful than love, transcending time and countries. 'There was no cure, and there is no cure' goes the song..... such is the nature of love.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Resonant with acute and accurate observations of people at that devastating stage in life where the glow and glory of youth is dimming into a dull realisation that fun spelt backwards is 'nuf, Russian Dolls is an achingly bitter sweet film. It doesn't short change audiences who enjoyed The Spanish Apartment, and calling it a sequel, while strictly accurate, could also damn it with faint praise.
Mature in many ways, as it deals with immaturity in young men and fantasies in young women, the film's insistence about our search for love is often seen as self-doubting. At one stage Xavier's exasperation boils over and he spews out a tirade against love as if it were a badly cut jacket he had to constantly wear.
But if the film is observant about people, it is equally observant about places; we go to London and Paris (often on the Eurostar express), Moscow and St Petersburg, and see these cities from the point of view of the characters, yet with fresh eyes.
Performances are top notch, the dialogue (dipping in and out of French, English and Russian) is spot on and the body language hilarious or painful in turn. The film's theme song seems to be summed up in the lyrics, 'There is no cure' (from The Mysteries of Love). But while it is officially a romantic comedy, it is at heart a riff on the conflicts and tortures of maturing into adulthood, a sort of tragi-comedy with a sweet wrapping.
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RUSSIAN DOLLS (M)
Les Poupées russes
CAST: Romain Duris, Kelly Reilly, Audrey Tautou, Cécile De France, Kevin Bishop, Evguenya Obraztsova, Irene Montala, Gary Love, Lucy Gordon, Aissa Maiga
PRODUCER: Matthew Justice, Bruno Levy
DIRECTOR: Cédric Klapisch
SCRIPT: Cédric Klapisch
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Dominique Colin
MUSIC: Loic Dury, Laurent Levesque
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Marie Cheminal
RUNNING TIME: 125 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Palace
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 26, 2005 (special advance screenings weekend of December 15 and December 22)