EIFF 2021: Stop-Zemlia

Kateryna Gornostai's coming-of-age film follows the social anxieties, unresolved crushes and the terrifying vastness of the future for three teen friends

Film Review by Leeza Isaeva | 02 Sep 2021
  • Stop-Zemlia
Film title: Stop-Zemlia
Director: Kateryna Gornostai
Starring: Maria Fedorchenko, Yana Isaienko, Oleksandr Ivanov, Arsenii Markov

Ukrainian filmmaker Kateryna Gornostai wanted to make a ‘boring film’ about adolescence. Stop-Zemlia was the outcome: a debut coming-of-age film focusing on three friends – Masha, Senia and Yana – and all the stomach-lurching, vertigo-inducing emotions of growing up. It resists the sensationalism of adolescence so often found in Anglophone coming-of-age films – think Booksmart or Lady Bird – and embraces the liminal space and hesitancy of teenage life. Its subject is social anxiety, unresolved crushes, the terrifying vastness of the future – and it’s ‘boring’ in the best possible way.

A significant proportion of the film is set in Masha’s bedroom, where Masha, Senia, and Yana flicker from topics of dating to mental health. Oleksandr Roshchyn’s restrained cinematography and long shots mirror the expansiveness of their lives, when so much yet so little happens. Engaging one coming-of-age trope, the film culminates in a stunningly-shot leavers’ dance: that bruised and glittered edge of adolescence, which is rarely all that it is made out to be.

Gornostai’s background is primarily within documentaries rather than fiction filmmaking, and Stop-Zemlia sits comfortably between the two. Archetypal documentary talking-head shots are interspersed with surrealist badminton games and the ennui of a biology classroom on a Friday afternoon. The script was developed through interviews with potential actors and the characters were named after the cast, reminiscent of Mathieu Kassovitz’s 1995 social commentary classic La Haine. There is a generosity to Gornostai’s craft which infuses the film with earnest authenticity, and it neatly sidesteps any adult condescension.

The power of the film lies in its universality: everyone can relate to the difficulties of adolescence and uncertainty about the future. Stop-Zemlia! Stop the world, I want to get off! Gornostai holds space for these emotions, without judgement – with the retrospective knowledge that it does get better.

Stop-Zemlia had its UK premiere at Edinburgh International Film Festival

Leeza Isaeva is a final-year history undergraduate, occasional freelance journalist, enthusiastic Letterboxd user, and was part of Edinburgh International Film Festival's Young Critics Programme 2021. For more on EIFF's Young Critics Programme, click here

Read more about Edinburgh International Film Festival at theskinny.co.uk/festivals/edinburgh-festivals/film, and follow our coverage on Twitter (@theskinnymag), Facebook (www.facebook.com/TheSkinnyMag) and Instagram (@theskinnymag)

Want to receive the best of the Scottish cultural scene in your inbox every week? Sign up to our mailing list!