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On the unforgiving Russian steppe, four generations of the Shamanov clan assemble in a monolithic farmhouse to celebrate their vegetative patriarch’s 100th birthday. Amongst their number is ex-con/prodigal son Viktor, who’s arrived with four henchmen in tow. Viewed as a villain by most of his siblings, his presence sparks their explosive tempers. Soon, the Shamanovs are too busy feuding amongst themselves to notice the armed strangers amassing on their property. And so it happens that this family drama assumes the form of something else entirely.

While the sweeping cinematography certifies writer-director Oleg Pogodin as a consummate craftsman, his deftness at juggling upwards of 30 Shamanovs suggests that he also has a bit of ringleader in him. The legion of distinct characters not only allows Pogodin to wreak havoc on family dynamics but also to explore his dueling themes of pride and revenge from varied perspectives. And while an audacious climax sees honour finally restored to the family name, it leaves us wondering whether a vicious cycle has ended or is only starting to pick up steam.

„That rare hybrid of a film that could appeal to lovers of 19th-century Russian literature and genre buffs… The first half of the film, which dissects family attitudes and its complex history, offers a microcosm of Russian society and the Russian soul… A mesmerizing, almost abstractly beautiful spectacle.”

Boyd van Hoeij, Indiewire