Robert Koelle’s review published on Letterboxd:
Iya, also known as Beanpole, and her friend Masha served at or near the front lines against the Germans in World War II. We meet both of them in Leningrad, right after the end of the war. Iya has pretty severe post-concussion syndrome, and Masha has....something. The city seems to be populated with damaged people in one sense or another, but none worse than Iya and Masha, even including a paralyzed soldier, I'd argue. Iya is caring for Masha's son, which doesn't go well, despite how loved he is by all the hospital residents where Iya works. When Iya reunites with Masha, the two devolve into almost complete derangement over their shared suffering.
Iya has occasional fits of being "frozen" when she can only slightly jerk her head, and make light wheezing and clicking sounds in her throat. Masha is just demented, and we don't really learn why until late in the movie.
I almost didn't make it that far. Watching this movie was truly horrifying at times. They are just so disturbed that the film becomes extremely unpleasant. In retrospect, some of their bizarre actions make sense, but their relationship is almost incomprehensible by then.
I have another major problem with this film. The sound director should be shot. Because so much of the dialogue is barely above a whisper, their mouths are so over-mic'ed that you get every tiny throat noise and lip smacking, alongside a cascade of intolerable other sounds, even when the speech volume is normal. I left the theater when Masha and Iya are having dinner with Sasha, a wannabe boyfriend to Masha, because the mastication noise was outrageous. I forced myself to return, only because I had to know if this exercise in lunacy actually goes anywhere. I'm sorta glad I did, because Masha finally reveals her true wartime experience, or rather it is revealed for her.
I honestly can't recommend this to anyone. I'm not normally a trigger warning person, but there are huge consent issues here that made me very uncomfortable, but in the end, that was the point. War destroys people inside-out, and the "enemy" isn't always who you think. But
"Beanpole" had me wondering if some things are best left unfilmed. That's a pretty remarkable conclusion for me to reach.