By Mark Bell | July 21, 2013

Peter (Val Beleniuc), obsessed with Elvis and more than a little drunk, is on his way to Las Vegas when he picks up hitchhiker Anton (Denis Sobolev). Not interested in the least in Las Vegas, Anton wants to go to the Californian coast instead, to find work and build a life as a powerful businessman. Peter goes along with it, but mainly because he’s too drunk to put up too much of a fight, and why not?

Both illegal aliens from Russia and the former Soviet Union, the two are also joined by another, Vasily (Gregory Flitsanov), whose illegal status is related more to his valuation of Native American culture as true Americans, and thus all non-Native Americans are illegal anyway. The three set up shop in Santa Barbara, and their stories unfold.

Anton goes to work managing a bar, juggling a relationship with local Kyoko (Linda Wong) while trying to build a home for his fiancé, Olesia (Julia Shype), who he hopes will eventually join him in the States (though not until he’s good and established). Peter, a student long past his visa, spends most of his time drunkenly bitching about this or that, until his favorite Elvis mug goes missing and he takes more disturbing action in tracking it down. Finally Vasily attempts to find work anywhere he can, eventually starting a relationship with Anton’s boss’s wife, Valerie (Irena Eremina), after Vasily saves her from a near-rape.

Gregory Flitsanov’s feature film, Jet-Lagged, feels like an effort that is too ambitious in narrative for its own good. The tackling of three different main characters and their tales is undermined by the execution, particularly in the editing. Perhaps focusing on one character’s story, and their perspective, would’ve allowed for a more solid narrative experience.

I do get the allure of attempting to cover as many perspectives as possible in its portrayal of illegal aliens from Russia and the former Soviet Union, however. Each character has a different point of view on life, sharing similarities in only their current illegal status and the region whence they came, and the film covers a lot of ground, but it comes across unfocused and disjointed.

Again, though, I put much of that on the editing side of things. The way scenes are cut together betray a shaky technical foundation; shots are cut at moments that don’t feel natural, and scenes are put together in ways that disorient. It’d be one thing if you got the impression that the editorial unease was on purpose, but it doesn’t come across as intentional so much as it does unskilled.

Also, in speaking about its expansive narrative, some stories just don’t seem to fit in. Vasily’s story, for example, while offering a completely different perspective than the business-oriented but horrible-in-love Anton, or the alcoholic and abusive Peter, also feels completely out of place. If his role was to give a more spiritual throughline, I can see the intention, but again the execution doesn’t work. It feels wooden and unnatural, though it allows the plumber boss character of Nikolay (Dmitriy Karpov) to rant and rave a little bit.

One area where the film definitely shows quality, however, is in the image itself. Not all compositions within the frame are all that great, but the filmmakers can’t often be faulted for not delivering a good-looking picture. Part of it is no doubt the setting, partly the camera itself, but there at least was someone who knew how to utilize those visual strengths to the film’s advantage.

Overall, I recognize that Jet-Lagged is trying to impart the points of view of a different segment of illegal aliens, one that you don’t hear very much about. It that way, it is telling stories that will be relatable to more than a few people, and I can see the potential connection and appeal. That said, however, I feel that it often undermines its own cause with its almost incoherent and rambling execution at times, and would’ve been better served telling one truly powerful story than attempting to tackle so many different perspectives.

This film was submitted for review through our Submission for Review system. If you have a film you’d like us to see, and we aren’t already looking into it on our own, you too can utilize this service.

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