Core of the World
Stepan Devonin, Dmitriy Podnozov, Jana Sekste,
A mild-mannered vet named Egor is caught between a group of animal rights protesters and the proprietors of the dog-training farm where he works in this complex naturalistic drama. Plunging deeply into her characters’ lives, Natalia Meshchaninova’s second feature portrays Egor attempting to find his moral center in an environment where the distinction between what’s right and wrong isn’t always easy to grasp. Viewers with a sensitivity to animal mistreatment may find some scenes challenging, but the director’s compassion toward her characters, whether two- or four-legged, is evident throughout.
“Superbly acted by a cast that also intrepidly deals at close quarters with some unpredictable animal life, Core of the World can be read as a parable about the fragility of human empathy under pressure. . . . Filmically, this is a riveting, sometimes harrowing essay in realism with overtones both of the Dardennes school and of the kind of borderline-documentary fiction currently pursued in the US by directors such as Roberto Minervini and Chloe Zhao. Meshchaninova’s version of this mode has its own harsh stamp of dirt-engrained authenticity; her sometimes shocking drama should help establish her as an audacious, idiosyncratic force.”—Jonathan Romney, Screen Daily