Directed by Boris Khlebnikov
Sad realities are usually desirable topics for observant films whose intention is to alert the world for specific circumstances. “Arrhythmia”, the sixth feature-length by Moscow-born filmmaker Boris Khlebnikov (“Roads to Koktebel”; “A Long and Happy Life"), follows exactly that premise, portraying the profile of a married couple in a relationship lacerated by alcohol addiction.
Oleg (Aleksandr Yatsenko) and Katya (Irina Gorbacheva) started dating in med-school and have been married for a few years. He is a paramedic who goes all over the city in an ambulance, jumping from house to house to provide emergency medical treatment for those in a critical condition. However, he has a serious drinking problem that sometimes prevents him to perform the tasks at his full capacity.
Much more ambitious and reliable than he is, Katya is a dedicated junior doctor who becomes more and more upset with Oleg’s irresponsibility. The situation was already bad, but her patience reached the limit during her father’s anniversary lunch, where she got visibly disturbed and embarrassed with Oleg’s impertinence. She still loves him, though, and yet, the situation seems out of control, getting her tired and frustrated. So much that she still doesn’t know how to address the problem, communicating her decision to divorce him by text message. Oleg doesn’t take her seriously at first but starts sleeping in the kitchen until he could find a new apartment, which he never does.
Meanwhile, the things at work are not famous either, with Oleg being subjected to various complaints. Sometimes he overdiagnoses, other times he doesn't follow the rules he is obliged to, and some other times he doesn’t respect the patient’s decisions or beliefs. This situation only gets worse with the arrival of the insensitive new head of the Emergency Medical Agency substation, who imposes twenty rules to be followed tightly, disregarding the human factor that this type of job should consider.
The romance, holding down a down-to-earth emotional weight, feels very authentic, for which much contributes the tight performances of Yatsenko - best actor at Karlovy Vary - and Gorbacheva. This is also bolstered by the confident direction of Mr. Khlebnikov, who keeps the film controlled while consciously takes it to a nonjudgmental path. The objective camera doesn't seek props or embellishments but rather captures a distasteful social reality without extravagant stratagems. It gives us the raw environment within the household, at the working premises, and in streets bursting at the seams with traffic congestion.
Feeling as emotionally strong as conceptually simple, “Arrhythmia” was handsomely crafted with powerful, thrilling scenes, showcasing not only a Russian medical predicament but perhaps even a worldly one. There’s optimism as a response to the imperfect world it describes, and genuine love seems to be the global solution.