Moscow City Day is an annual opportunity for Muscovites to take a break from their everyday lives and celebrate the founding of the Russian capital. Set during this festive occasion, the drama “Moscow Never Sleeps” follows several interlocking narratives, each one featuring varying ways to party and get into trouble. You would not expect such a film from a director named Johnny O’Reilly, yet the Irish-born filmmaker has lived and worked for many years in Russia. His film is a flawed, albeit sincere love letter to a city that has so much more to offer beyond Red Square.
Perversely, the film opens with an image of a man asleep in a hospital bed. This is Valeriy (Yuri Stoyanov), an ailing comic movie actor who needs a heart transplant, but who would rather have some cognac. The other famous Muscovite is Katya (Evgenia Brik), a pop singer scheduled to perform as part of City Day, even though she is more concerned about the two men vying for her attention (Alexey Serebryakov and Oleg Dolin). Two stepsisters — one introverted (Anastasia Shalonko) and the other a party animal (Lubov Aksenova) — wander into a nightclub, drawing the attention of some goofy young men — which could turn out to be dangerous.
Over one long day and night, these stories crisscross and bump up against each other, in ways that nobody involved will ever quite grasp. Although structurally and thematically similar to such city-specific anthology films as “New York, I Love You” and “Paris, Je T’aime,” “Moscow Never Sleeps” is by a single filmmaker.
O’Reilly’s ambitions notwithstanding, “Moscow” is uneven because of the inescapable nature of such interlocking narratives: some land better than others. Valeriy’s escape from the hospital, in particular, has a slow-burn intensity in the way he encounters fans who strike an uneasy balance between devotion and aggression. Most of the other stories, however, meander, offering few big surprises. The cumulative effect is confusion: Why bother telling these stories in the first place?
Unrated. At Landmark’s E Street Cinema. Contains crude language, violence and sexual situations including attempted rape. In Russia with subtitles. 100 minutes.