The bond formed by two strangers on a train isn’t a new idea for a film, but director Juho Kuosmanen‘s “Compartment No. 6” doesn’t take the expected, traditional love story path. Based on Rosa Liksom‘s novel, the story of a young Finnish woman (Seidi Haarla) on her way to see ancient petroglyphs after leaving behind a troubled relationship and a boorish Russian miner with a criminal past (Yuriy Borisov) is not just an odd couple pairing, but one of connection, insight, and understanding.
The majority of the film takes place onboard a train across Russia, with the characters headed to a remote city in the Arctic circle. The confined space boosts the tension between the two, as they share a sleeper cabin and irritate each other. There’s much conflict early on, until they began to peel away the layers, growing comfortable enough to let their true selves emerge. The pair develop an intense friendship in a matter of days, learning so much from each other — even if they don’t realize it yet.
Borisov and Haarla have a natural chemistry that evolves from skeptical to soul mates who begin to discover a new maturity together. They’re both aimless in their lives, but fate opens a door where they’re exactly what each other needs at that particular time. It may sound contrived, but the story is presented in such a genuine way that it never feels forced.
The beauty of this film lies in its subtlety. It’s talky and poignant, and Kuosmanen takes his time with the narrative as his characters explore their own needs for human connection. “Compartment No. 6” has a timeless feel in both story and tone, and the finished product is simple, eloquent, and to the point.
This film was screened for review at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival.
By: Louisa Moore