We’d have to do a quick scan of our archive but it seems likely that The Weather Station, filmed in 2010 and finally slipping out onto DVD in the UK, is the first Russian thriller directed by an Irishman we’ve ever reviewed here at Starburst Magazine. It’s entirely possible that The Weather Station is surfacing now because director Johnny O’Reilly’s acclaimed Moscow Never Sleeps, which was doing the rounds of the festivals towards the end of last year, shares The Weather Station’s quirky and distinctive multi-narrative conceit. The Weather Station plays with narrative, telling the story of a remote snowbound weather station and the mundane life of its somewhat surly meteorologists (and a shy young boy who works as their cook) concurrently with the story of a police inspector and his fresh-faced colleague who arrive, two days later, to investigate the disappearance of the station’s three uneasy co-workers.
The Weather Station, with its flashback/present-day story structure, is a bit of an oddity but what at first presents as a slightly annoying and pretentious contrivance quickly gives the story its thrust. As we see the two detectives prowl around the abandoned station pondering murder or other nefarious activity (one of the station’s crew is an abominable snowmen aficionado and at first it looks as if we’re being steered down one particular alley when in reality we’re absolutely not) we become anxious to slip back to a couple of days earlier. Here the station’s edgy equilibrium is upset by the arrival of dodgy banker Vadim (Sergey Yushkevich) and his flirty girlfriend Irina (Marina Aleksandrova), ostensibly planning to revisit a local beauty spot from their courting days. The couple stay the night at the weather station - and then the murders/disappearances begin...
What unfolds is a story told from two different perspectives, stories that slowly converge as the two narratives move closer and closer together in time. We’re never sure quite whom we can trust and who is on whose side as the killings and the double-crossings start – and beneath it all lies a tale of childhood trauma and an unsolved murder whose resolution is closer than anyone expects. The Weather Station is a stark, cold movie – helped, obviously, by its isolated, sub-zero setting - but its dramatis personae are also distant, difficult, troubled souls and if we warm to anyone in the cast its the apparently-naive cook/houseboy Ramesh (Logachev) who is, it transpires, a lot wilier than we’re first led to believe – and with good reason.
Crisp, icy and complex The Weather Station makes superb use of its unearthly locations and delivers strong performances from a cast, not unnaturally, that we’re entirely unfamiliar with which only adds to its haunting, dramatic appeal.
THE WEATHER STATION / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: JOHNNY O’REILLY / SCREENPLAY: ALEKSEI KOLMOGOROV, JOHNNY O’REILLY / STARRING: PYOTR LOGACHEV, VLADIMIR GUSEV, SERGEY GARMASH / RELEASE DATE: 18TH JANUARY