Drama "Pavlov's Dog," helmed by debutante writer-helmer Katya Shagalova, reps a fair if slightly lumpy contribution to Russia's longstanding tradition of films about loveable, if obviously troubled, mental patients. Shagalova adopts a soft, Chekhovian tone with a character-driven, only slightly sentimental story that ends on a bright note, and coaxes good perfs from a sturdy ensemble. Fests and offshore distribs won't be salivating heavily for "Dog," but lean running time could encourage TV pickups abroad.
Residents of pic's unnamed asylum are the usual motley crew of damaged souls, but protags Maxim (stubbled Nikolai Ivanov, subtle), a suicidal ex-soldier, and his alcoholic live-wire g.f. Ksenia (Yelena Lyadova, from "The Stroll") are more functional than most. Over the course of a few days, Maxim and Ksenia make love and argue, while dialogue fills in how they both ended up in the loony bin. Supports each get a turn in the spotlight, with Maria Zvonareva shining particularly brightly as a doctor with an unexpected connection to Ksenia. Lyadova makes the latter, a tricky customer with all sorts of edges, engaging throughout. Warm-toned lensing by Yevgeny Sinelnikov jollies up the potentially dour setting.
Camera (color), Yevgeny Sinelnikov; editors, Elena Andreeva, Gleb Nikulski; production designer, Masha Petrova; art director, Alexey Uchitel; costume designer, Natalya Stitsyuk. Reviewed on DVD, London, March 11, 2006. (In Berlin Film Festival -- market.) Running time: 82 MIN.