Perhaps a romantic troika with a gay twist is still sufficiently provocative and rare in Russian film that “You I Love” will cause ripples in its homeland. But such themes are so commonplace in this country that here the picture, co-directed by Olga Stolpovskaya and Dmitri Troitsky, can’t help but seem rather trite and passe. Not to mention, in this case, overwrought and narratively chaotic.
The picture is about Timofei (Evgeny Koryakovsky), a Moscow advertising exec who’s enjoying a passionate fling with Vera (Lyubov Tolkalina), a TV news anchor. His life changes when Ulumji (Damir Badmaev), a street kid from the hinterland, literally falls on his car, and when the hospital proves of no help, Timofei takes the disoriented youngster back to his apartment to rest. Soon he and Ulumji, whose mysterious oriental charm apparently intoxicates him, get deeply involved, frolicking around the flat like a couple of besotted adolescents. Their passionate relationship throws Vera for a loop, but the people it really incenses are the boy’s traditionist parents and uncle, who go to extraordinary lengths to pull the men apart. The ending is inconclusive, to say the least.
There’s almost nothing distinguished about “You I Love,” including the title. The plot is thin, with elements like Timofei’s gay boss and the powerful politicians Ulumji’s uncle drives around seeming completely arbitrary and others left utterly unexplained–how do Ulumji’s parents wind up in Moscow, for instance? In addition, the filmmaking, in trying for a sense of unrestrained energy, comes off seeming merely ragged. The acting is subpar, too. Koryakovsky is a sad-sack, opaque protagonist–he never makes Timofei’s motivations plausible (though the problematic script is a strong reason for that), nor does Tolkalina manage to clarify Vera’s equally clouded persona. Ulumji is supposed to be simultaneously seductive, conniving, and naive, but Badmaev, with his blank expression, is incapable of suggesting such complexity. In a story like this, chemistry among the cast is essential, and here it’s seriously lacking.
This is one “Love” that’s easy to resist.