- Golden Globe Awards
Filmed in Russia, Unwanted is the directorial debut of Russian female director Lena Lanskih. This 109-minute movie is the story of a teenage girl named Vika, who becomes an adolescent mother at the age of fourteen and is forced to hide the fact from the rest of the world.
Set in a small provincial town somewhere in Russia’s Ural Region, this social issue drama depicts in exquisite detail of the life of a 14-year-old teenage girl after she gives birth to a baby. Vika lives with her single mother, who makes her living by picking wild berries in a moorland nearby and selling them in the local street market. Vika’s father works in the local police department; he is happily married to another woman and raising a teenage son who turns out to be the father of Vika’s baby. The boy’s mother refuses to believe that her son is an abuser; instead, she accuses Vika of manipulating her family and makes her husband cover up the entire case.
These four people are, literally, the only living souls who know that Vika has a baby. No one else has any idea: schoolteachers expel her from school for failed attendance, the only class she is allowed to continue to attend being choreography. If she meets someone while taking her baby outside in a stroller, she tells them the child is her little sister. The entire situation is driving her crazy: she loves her baby profoundly, yet at the same time is constantly thinking of ways to get rid of her because she herself is still a child who wants to go out, dance, fall in love, and run away to find a better life. Instead, she edges closer to the darkness of insanity, engineering various scenarios of selling her baby to another couple or even drugging her with her sedative pills: inevitably this leads to a tragic finale.
31-year-old Lanskih co-wrote and directed this film as a compilation of real events she’d witnessed while living in the Russian province where she grew up. Though the location and setting of her directorial debut is dark and everyone in it seems to be doomed, Lanskih obviously loves her story and her characters. She does not present a plot with a clear-cut introduction, climax, and moral, but instead focuses on exploring her characters and their motivation. Her audience is expected simply to experience this drama and Lanskih prefers to explain nothing. Unwanted seems to have been inspired by the New Russian Cinema and is reminiscent of works by the prominent Russian film director Alexei Balabanov. These associations are reinforced by the fact that Unwanted is co-produced by Sergei Selyanov who produced almost all of Balabanov’s films.
In casting the lead in her directorial debut Lanskih preferred to work with a newcomer instead of looking for a professional actress. She searched for her Vika on social media, scanning through dozens of accounts and profiles of young girls until she finally found twenty-year-old Anastasiia Strukova for the role. It should be noted that Strukova managed to create a disturbing and vulnerable character who was capable of making us shift from sympathy to total incomprehension of her character.
Unwanted premiered at San Sebastian International Film Festival earlier this year where this drama received KUTXABANK New Directors Award.