Cuckoo

Unusual but effective struggle-and-survival story

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OPENS NOVEMBER 28, CERT 12A, 99 MINS

It sounds like the first line of a national-stereotype joke: a young Finnish sniper, a weary Russian soldier and a Lapp woman are thrown together in a remote corner of Lapland just as WWII is winding down. The punchline is that none of them speak a word of the others’ languages, yet somehow they forge a precarious harmony that transcends cultures and nations as they attempt to survive the coming winter.

Writer-director Aleksandr Rogozhkin’s nimble script generates honest comedy out of the trio’s mutual misunderstandings. Occasionally the peace fractures and the Russian tries to kill the “fascist” Finn (actually a peace-loving conscript left to die by his own army). Somehow he’s always saved by the Lapp’s feminine intervention, which reveals its mystical powers at the end. Despite it being a three-hander set almost entirely in the Lapp’s aboriginal compound beside a stunning lake, Rogozhkin generates taut drama simply out of the combustible characters themselves. Also, watch closely and you’ll learn how to make handy things with twigs and cured reindeer hides.

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