Though the Cold War is long over Russia still remains a mystery for most of us. We don’t know much about the immense country and its people. It is a film like this that raises the curtain so to speak on a country, society and people that remain largely hidden from us.
Yulia and Katia are two young ladies that the Russia system has failed. Because they were either abandoned at birth or later on in life by their parents combined with diminished mental capacities they have been declared without civil liberty. As such they have no freedoms. Living in a neuropsychiatric institution in Siberia they cannot work, start families or even choose their own clothes or food.
The two girls, who did nothing worse in their lives than running away from home, were in orphanages and then moved into psychiatric institutions once they became of age. Neither had a say in anything about their lives and both are suffering under the burden of not really living, but merely existing.
Now they are both in their late twenties and have begun the long and arduous process of gaining their freedom from the Russian court. Director Alexander Kuznetzov’s (Territory of Love, Territory of Freedom) film follows the two women through the battle which lasts four years.
Unwanted children are treated differently by different societies. No matter where you are in the world if you are a child without a family it is not good. The problem continues in Russia as an adult if you are of diminished mental capacities. Your life and decisions about it are wrested from you and despite the fact that you are of the age of majority. Yulia and Katia are treated like non-entities with their ability to make decisions for themselves denied. The state becomes totally in charge.
Despite the fact that they have no psychiatric diagnosis the two young women live a bleary life that leads to some depression and behaviour problems. You cannot really blame them as they feel as if they have not future and no purpose in life.
We feel for the two women as they have to deal with decisions and diagnosis that are not really explained to them. Their frustration is palpable. At times your heart breaks for Yulia and Katia. Others you applaud their courage. Yulia who seems to be resigned to whatever is decided for her while Katia remains defiant, questioning and angry through their two attempts at freedom. The injustice of it all is there, at times silently, for all to see.
With all their battles for what would seem to us to be basic human rights, a system that does not seem to want to help people in their situation and everything else they have gone through in life you leave the film wondering if, once they have their freedom, they will be successful in the outside world.