Beanpole ★★★★★

Wounds are still raw in Leningrad in the aftermath of World War II. Two young friends, Iya and Masha, are rebuilding their lives in the shattered and barely functioning city. While each woman is fiercely independent, they approach life differently. Iya, a veteran’s hospital nurse with post-concussion syndrome, suffers paralyzing seizures made worse by stress and anxiety. Through kindness to others she finds some solace and manages to persevere. Having spent time on the front lines of the war, Masha is an active manipulator who takes what she wants from life and others. She is brutally honest, direct and practical. Both women are barely hanging on. To heal they have each other to look to, but that is not their style.

Women speak up and men take a backseat in this authentic, heart-rending, colorful and resonant account of the tragic consequences of war. There are many deep, emotionally charged and enlightening discussions between the characters. There are amazing scenes I will long remember including one with Masha twirling in a borrowed emerald dress like Cinderalla lost in her unlikely dream of escape. The chemistry between Masha and Iya is palpable as an electric current. Beanpole is based on the writing of Svetlana Alexievich, a Nobel Prize winner and author of The Unwomanly Face of War. Seen at the Mayan theater in Denver.

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