The kids were never alright: young lovers navigate the ennui of a modern Russia in Alexander Hant’s second film


    Despite feeling like a copycat of many other films and not exactly bringing much to an already crowded table of angsty teenagers stories, director Alexander Hant’s latest In Limbo delivers a clumsy but (bitter)sweet story about today’s troubled youth.

    In many aspects, In Limbo is reminiscent of the popular Netflix series The End of the F***ing World (2017-2019). Both feature a very particular could be sweet, could be psycho duo, where a brash girl and a quiet boy find themselves against the world and push each other into a mix-and-match of violent and deranged situations. Puppy love turns to a die-for-each-other type of drama when 15-year-old foul-mouthed Sasha (Jenia Vinogradova) and shy Danny (Igor Ivanov) decide to run away together, rebelling against their controlling parents and renouncing conformity. As Sasha challenges Danny to get out of his comfort zone – yelling out in the streets, stealing clothes, vandalising billboards, spray painting expensive furs – the two bond over the old teenage desire of wanting to watch the world burn. In a Romeo + Juliet (1996) meets Thelma and Louise (1991) fashion, petty crimes soon escalate to shoot-outs in the remote woods of rural Russia, when Sasha’s police officer stepfather and the rest of his colleagues get involved.

    There is a certain kind of innocent awkwardness to In Limbo that makes it feel like a long student film. It is an awkwardness you get from being overeager and overambitious, trying to show how much you can do and how many films you can reference, often resulting in a combination of styles and shots that is not always extremely organic. Hant seems to be suffering from the same predicament. The quirkiness of the characters is supposed to be mimicked by ‘quirky’ cinema techniques, and the more the better. Jump cuts and music montages feel overused, although the music is  entertaining and it keeps the film grounded in an up-to-date, cool present. We constantly shift through many styles and genres, from a cliché yet fun ‘I hate my parents’ coming of age story, to playfully wandering about the city, to an absurd comedy ridiculing modern life in the east of Europe (the police are particularly caricatued), to a road movie, culminating in an intense romantic drama.

    Sasha and Danny don’t feel like real teenagers at all, but rather like a romanticised ideal from popular culture - the misunderstood underdogs who escape together to the woods to wear flower crowns and recite love poems to each other because the world is so wretched.

    Yet in all its stylistic experiments In Limbo does get some things right. Documentary-like inserts such as a fragment where the Sasha and Danny interview people on the street asking them about happiness – which recalls Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin’s Chronicle of a Summer (1961) – allow us glimpses of a life beyond the screen, behind all the happy-go-lucky gimmicks, where everyone lives in their own limbo

    Last modified on 15-10-2021