Irish Film Review: Moscow Never Sleeps


DIR/WRI: Johnny O’Reilly • PRO: Katie Holly, Johnny O’Reilly • DOP: Fedor Lyass • ED: Dermot Diskin, Nico Leunen • DES: Pierre Brayard, Ekaterina Zaletaeva • MUS: Roman Litvinov • CAST: Evgenia Agenorova, Rustam Akhmadeyev, Ieva Andrejevaite 

Moscow Never Sleeps, the latest from Russia-situated Irish director Johnny O’Reilly (The Weather Station), showcases the capital terrifically well. While the city is more frequently used in cinema as a backdrop for historical cold-war dramas or as a minor stopping off point in spy thrillers for exotic heft, here it looks authentically bustling and metropolitan. Fedor Lyass’ wide-angled and shimmering cityscape shots, achieved with advanced drone technology, manage to portray the capital in a unique way, uncompromised by any political agendas.

In the vein of Magnolia or Short Cuts, the film features five disparate storylines, each centring upon people of different positions in the Russian social strata – which interlock in unexpected ways. O’Reilly deserves credit for taking typical Russian archetypes – a vodka guzzling old man, a wealthy business man, a hoodlum, a good girl, a bad girl, a babushka – and humanising them. He analyses the reasons why these characters behave in the ways they do, adding more depth to their traditionally clichéd character tropes.

In films broken up into segments, unevenness is common. In Moscow Never Sleeps, for every engaging tale – an elderly celebrity (Yuriy Stoyanov) kidnapped by adoring fans or a wealthy businessman (Aleksei Serebryakov, Leviathan) stomped out by bureaucracy (both of which feel incredibly timely), there is a less interesting one – which causes the film to lag. In regards to the latter, O’Reilly gets too bogged down in stories regarding love-affairs and familial bonds which don’t possess as much inventiveness as the way he approaches his characters.

That said, Moscow Never Sleeps zips by at a rollicking pace, meaning the less engaging stories don’t tend to drag on for too long. It’s only 95 minutes in length, which is incredible given how much the film covers, both city and society wise. Also, this brevity is a breath of fresh air given how long movies featuring intertwining stories tend to be. It’s worth noting that O’Reilly handles the obligatory big moments in films like this, which serve to link the major characters together, with panache, e.g. a flashy firework display, ignited to celebrate Moscow’s “City Day”.

Overall, as a love-letter to the Russian capital, the movie succeeds.

Stephen Porzio

99 minutes
15A (See IFCO for details)

Moscow Never Sleeps is released 11th November 2016

Moscow Never Sleeps – Official Website



Podcast: Interview with Johnny O’Reilly, writer/director of ‘Moscow Never Sleeps’



Stephen Porzio talks to Johnny O’Reilly about his film Moscow Never Sleeps, a multi-story drama that weaves through Moscow’s choked cityscape as it celebrates its birthday with a massive fireworks display. Over the course of one day, many lives will change forever.

Capturing the kinetic energy of the Russian capital, Johnny O’Reilly’s Moscow Never Sleeps cleverly interweaves five compelling stories in a provocative statement on Putin’s Russia.

Moscow Never Sleeps is a drama about the hidden bonds that connects us all. The film dives headlong into the volatile intersections of contemporary Moscow and the intimate lives of five people: An entrepreneur whose business empire comes under siege by powerful bureaucrats, a teenage girl mired in the misery of a broken home, a young man forced to chose between his girlfriend and his grandmother; a beautiful singer torn apart by the pursuit of two men, and an ailing film star who gets embroiled in a bizarre kidnapping.

These stories weave through Moscow’s choked cityscape as it celebrates its birthday with a massive fireworks display. They reveal the unrestrained energy of Europe’s biggest city and the cruelty and beauty of the Russian spirit.

The film stars many of Russia’s best-known actors including Alexey Serebriakov (Leviathon). It was written and directed by Irish filmmaker, Johnny O’Reilly who has lived in Moscow for 12 years. The film aims to give audiences a unique view of Russian humanity, to present a true impression of a vibrant culture overshadowed by egregious policies of a corrupt government and to capture the pulsating spirit of Europe’s biggest city.

Moscow Never Sleeps is released in Irish cinemas on 11th November 2016


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Moscow Never Sleeps is released in Irish cinemas on 11th November 2016





Short Film of the Week: Watch ‘3 Minute 4 Play’ by Johnny O’Reilly



3 Minute 4 Play (2005) is a surreal tale of desire and jealousy set in an empty white space. A lonely, frustrated young man conjures up a beautiful girl who is unwilling to satisfy his desires. The film dramatizes in an absurd way a simple conflict between the sexes. 3 Minute 4 Play stars Risteard Cooper and Ruth Negga.

Director Johnny O’Reilly spoke to Film Ireland about creating the film: ‘I guess the process of conceiving this short, mirrors the commission guidelines in a way; “Write a short film that needs to be 3 mins long” For whatever reason, as I pondered what to write about, my mind turned in on itself and started thinking about a guy who was trying to think of an idea. It’s kind of a lazy way of conceiving ideas. But I worked on it and following some of the “accepted” rules of dramaturgy, came up with the idea of a character in a film who needs to follow the rules of dramaturgy AND somehow entertain the audience.’


DIRECTOR: Johnny O’Reilly
PRODUCER: Rachel Lysaght