LETTER TO BREZHNEV
(director: Chris Bernard; screenwriter: Frank Clarke; cinematographer: Bruce McGowan; editor: Lesley Walker; music: Alan Gill; cast: Peter Firth (Peter), Alfred Molina (Sergei), Margi Clarke (Teresa), Neil Cunningham (Foreign Office Man), Alexandra Pigg (Elaine), Carl Chase (Taxi Driver), Sharon Power (Charlie’s Girl), Robbie Dee (Charlie), Eddie Ross (Rayner), Syd Newman (Dmitri), Ted Wood (Mick), Tracy Lea (Tracy), Ken Campbell (Reporter), Susan Dempsey (Girl in Pub); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Janet Goddard; Channel Four Films; 1985-UK)
“A feel-good story.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A saucy comedy with political overtones, that has Liverpool vibes. It’s pungently directed by Brit filmmaker Chris Bernard (“Shadow on the Earth”/”A Little Bit of Lippy”) and written by Frank Clarke as a feel-good story. The offbeat lark was financed by Britain’s television division at Channel 4.
In the mid-1980s in an economically depressed Liverpool, Teresa (Margi Clarke) is a feisty young worker in a chicken processing plant. After work she treats her unemployed and on welfare 22-year-old friend Elaine (Alexandra Pigg) to a night out on the town. They meet in a working-class pub two visiting Russian sailors on a 24-hour pass, Peter (Peter Firth) and Sergei (Alfred Molina). Before you know it, Elaine and Peter, who is not fluent in English, take one room in a waterfront hotel and talk all night, and Teresa and Sergei have sex in their room.
Trying to keep in touch by mail with the sailors when they leave Liverpool becomes difficult, as they discover both the British and Russian authorities discourage such a correspondence. Thereby Elaine, on the urgings of her friend, pens a letter to the Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev to help her keep in touch with her Peter, as she wants to marry him.
To Elaine’s surprise the Soviet leader sends her an airplane ticket to Russia (which is highly improbable). Meanwhile her parents and the Foreign Office think she would be crazy to go. But this is a rom/com preaching tolerance during the Cold War and our heroine intends to follow her heart.
The slight story, filmed on a low-budget, lets us envision if life in Russia would be so radically different than one in England. If you’re from Liverpool, you might have been brainwashed by the Beatles song into believing “Love is All You Need.”
REVIEWED ON 10/10/2023 GRADE: B-