A goggling miserabilism defines Beanpole, making it hard to connect with the film on anything other than an aesthetic level. Set in 1945 Leningrad, the movie’s title refers to Iya (Viktoria Miroshnichenko), a tall, deathly pale Russian conscript who was sent home from the front after she began suffering from catatonic spells. Now working as a nurse, Iya also cares for a frail child in her hovel of an apartment. Directed by Kantemir Balagov, the movie has a striking visual style: walls are painted in bold primary colors, contrasting with the bleak winter and crumbling facades outside. People shuffle around beneath layers of cloaks, eking out a desperate existence. It’s the recent past imagined as a dystopian, Terry Gilliamesque future. When it comes to its characters, however, Beanpole seems less interested in them as actual human beings than it is in their peculiarities, oddities, and miseries. The camera holds for countless seconds on Iya’s imperceptible eyebrows (she looks like Tilda Swinton’s lost daughter from Only Lovers Left Alive) and lingers on the stunted features of the little boy (Timofey Glazkov). When a comrade of Iya’s (Vasilisa Perelygina) also returns from the front, the two women engage in a tortured dynamic that involves affection, violence, and much intense staring. There are some interesting ideas at play here—including what it means to take a life and to make a life—but Beanpole foregrounds earthier elements. These are deeply damaged characters, valued mostly for the jarring ways that damage can be demonstrated onscreen.