The story here is swift, simple, and straightforward: a young man arrives at a magnificently unpretty Ukranian boarding school for the deaf, and quickly discovers that the place is run by a brutal gang of student-criminals. Luckily(?), he's tough enough to join, and soon finds himself promoted from muscle to pimp, shopping a couple of his classmates to truckers at a nearby stop. (His predecessor fails to hear a truck's reverse beep.) But the poor sap not only samples his product, he gets fond of it (well, her). And if there's one place where love has no place, it's here. But if the story is swift, the scenes are slow, slow, slow. Writer-director Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy likes to settle his camera a little bit back from the action — often with subjects center-frame — and hold it there. This gives the viewer ample time to figure things out: the dialogue is signed, and there are no voiceovers or subtitles. It also provides a remarkable perspective on the action, which is often violent (assault), sometimes graphic (sex), occasionally awful (abortion), and always prolonged — but never shocking. It's just observed: "Here's what happens here." (2015) — Matthew Lickona
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