Young Steve found a middle-aged nightmare on Amazon Video. And it is shuddersome. Women – imagine your significant other has turned into a drunk, gotten in with another woman and partying at her possibly-a-brothel. Men – imagine that academic career you’d promised yourself has dragged you into poverty and a flat in a borderline derelict building so grim that you work, eat and sleep in the one horrifyingly flocked room. Ah, the empty and lonely trudge of academic hubris…. relieved over Three Evenings.
Young Steve and I sat in the TV room, freshly deserted since we told the crumblies it’s an Armenian film set in the early ’70s, and gave Three Evenings the full hour and a bit it deserves. It reminded old Jack, if anything, of episodes of Z-Cars from the same time: freshly using colour (a mix of browns and lighter browns), stark outfits and wallpaper set against the grim and grime of old buildings, sallow streets and sad faces. So far so depressing.
Anush is the betrayed wife, wandering the area searching for her husband. He has disappeared into a flat in Misery Towers. She catches the helpful eye of middle-aged Simon, another resident in a ground-floor flat. She gives off disappointed glamour; he gives off emptiness. Broken souls both.
Now, this thing cost just about $2,500 to make – says the imdb – and it really shows. There is an air of impromptu filming about it and shooing away of locals. Not quite amateur, but a long way from Hollywood. The sound is ugly; the music is classical (and comically unaware of use in British adverts…). The entire things works or fails on the performances – so let them grow on you. There are a lot of moments when Three Evenings could have nose-dived into excruciating, but the two leads – when the script doesn’t clunk them into pontificating or the directing stuns them into staring ruefully at badly plastered walls – pull it off. Just.
Anush (Kristina Zaminyan) tentatively asks Simon (Georgi Amiraghov) for help about her husband. He’s seen him head downstairs to the possibly-a-brothel, and invites Anush in for a clumsy cup of char in his soulless flat. Like all good guests, she points out how lost he is, like all “you men without women”. He’s so dazed to have a looker in his flat that he doesn’t tell her to fuck off. The old loner is already growing…
She pops by again and they share their worlds: she has multiple kids and deep sadness; he has become what every smug tosser who stays to do a masters and PhD deserves: bald, empty and alone.
Evening three is the one that makes the story. Don’t worry, he doesn’t pounce and she doesn’t pitch up set on making the husband jealous. If anything, what happens is that daydream of middle-age: making a new friend, with honesty and humour, just as life, family and money lock you into static loneliness. At least, that’s old Jack’s memory of my middle years.
So, the pair listen to Simon’s recordings of bird song, they drink beer and eat the most repugnant looking meal of rye-bread, cheese and stuff. I’ve been spoilt by a lifetime of excess, because – blech! Simon chomps through the food like he’s discovered Jaffa Cakes. And then they dance. Well, Anush dances and drags Simon to his inexperienced feet. They dance fast, then they dance slow. Platonically – got that? In a grim little flat in the 1970s, where a long stare at the patterns on the wall and sofa could trigger a catastrophic migraine. So, you know, sexless. But Zaminyan and Amiraghov give us the affection of innocents.
Young Steve and I sat back after the hour of Three Evenings, pondering on what we’d seen. It is a sweet tale about character and people rather than anything particularly deep or plotty. I’d avoid it if you’re feeling sad or empty, because it really won’t salve the burns. But there’s something in seeing normal people, far far away, learn each other as people do. It doesn’t take them anywhere special, but it gives them a moment that is special.
Amazon Prime. Take a deep breath and dare to watch something primitive, clunky, but really rather worth it.