My Perestroika | Film review
Five Russian schoolmates recall coming of age during the 1980s.
The road to adulthood is inevitably paved with shattered dreams, but it’s especially tough to grow up to an entirely different world than the one you prepared for. My Perestroika follows five Brezhnev-era-born Moscow schoolmates who came of age during glasnost, when suddenly the pageantry and harvest celebrations of their youth seemed at odds with the realities they confronted. For the first time, it was possible to quit the Communist youth league; although the KGB tried to monitor it, a burgeoning punk scene—replete with lyrics about destroying NATO—took hold. One of the subjects, a history teacher, says he always saw wearing a pro-USA shirt as not so much politics as a form of romantic, teenage rebellion.
We see the friends (who include a clothing-store entrepreneur and an aging rock star) as they’ve grown apart, but My Perestroika isn’t just an Up documentary–style portrait of aging. The human toll of social change is rarely glimpsed with such offhand intimacy, and for all the feeling and memories it contains, My Perestroika is remarkably modest in scale. There’s also a poignant sense of the contradictions of life in modern Russia: new financial freedoms alongside intractable poverty; supposed democracy that with Putin took a turn toward what one subject dismisses as “Soviet style” methods. The film ends with the foregone-conclusion election of Medvedev, conveying a powerful sense of plus ça change.