As the short, cold summer draws to a close, Old Russia and New Russia collide, at a remote meteorological station in the Russian Arctic. New Russia is Pasha, an easy-going, feckless pretty-boy college student (Grigoriy Dobrygin) with a pierced ear and a soundtrack smashing into his headphones. Old Russia is Sergei, a stolid old Arctic hand, three decades Pasha’s senior, whose only solace is his absent wife and child. Where Pasha’s laid back and out-going, Sergei is dour, and serious, and with not just a hint of latent violence lurking beneath his methodical exterior. So when Sergei’s out fishing and Pasha receives the news that Sergei’s family has been killed in an accident, Pasha’s too scared to tell him. Which is when things start spiraling out of control.
I was going to say “spiraling quickly out of control” but that’d be a lie, because nothing in this thriller moves quickly, except perhaps the gathering storm clouds. It’s like Waiting for Godot on Ice, and Pasha’s slowness to tell Sergei the terrible news actually becomes irritating; common decency alone would suggest Pasha should have told Sergei to at least phone home, and Sergei’s bellowing rage is kind of understandable as a result. But Sergei, old, patient Russia, never gets quite as mad as I’d expected. Instead it’s modern Pasha who descends into a ferocious kind of fear-induced madness that makes him end his summer in a strange and terrifying way.
I suppose the somnabulent pace is entirely fitting for an island where there’s no clear difference between day and night. The sheer physicality of life portrayed in this stark, brutal region – the icy waters, swarms of flies, the tang of salted fish, the sudden charge of an opportunistic polar bear – is painted with such realism you can virtually smell the sea. How I Ended This Summer filmed at a real rundown weather station, at the Valkarkai Polar Station in Chukotka, Russia.