Oleg (Alexander Yatsenko) and his wife Katya (Irina Gorbacheva) work in the medical field as paramedic and junior doctor respectively. Both are fully committed to their profession, but when we meet them, this devotion doesn’t extend to their relationship. After Oleg embarrasses Katya at her father’s birthday, she requests a divorce and Arrhythmia follows their attempts to navigate towards some sort of closure.
In his latest film, director Boris Khlebnikov, along with his co-writer Natalia Meshchaninova, paint a raw and ugly portrait of marital life. Oleg is for all intents and purposes an alcoholic, even if we never see it interfere with his work. Meanwhile, Katya thinks asking for a divorce via text is the ideal gateway to open communication. Whilst the film tries to suggest Katya or Oleg are equal in their misery, it does at times seem to favour Oleg and his man-child ways. He’s rude, obnoxious and occasionally gaslights his wife, smearing her with his own insecurities. And yet, we’re asked to forgive most of this because of his compassion for the people he saves. Katya, meanwhile, is offered no such absolution and because of this, Arrhythmia’s appeal may be soured to some of its audience.
That said, it is still possible to recommend the film, regardless of where you stand on its problematic characters. Yatsenko and Gorbacheva light up the screen with heartbreaking and subtle performances. Their arguments, divorced from Hollywood sheen, simmer with the kind of comments that can only come from a couple spiralling down the drain. Elsewhere, Khlebnikov and Meshchaninova take aim at the bureaucracy that interferes with Russian healthcare and may even play a part in the attitudes of our protagonists. What this all adds up to is a film that, rightly or wrongly, reaches its conclusion and leaves its audience to debate whether what happened was for the good of everyone.