"A Friend of the Deceased" by Ukrainian director Vyacheslav Krishtofovich marks the end of a six-year hiatus since his acclaimed Adam's Rib received kudos at Cannes. Unfortunately, Krishtofovich's choice of material doesn't show much reflection during that dry spell which mirrors economic and spiritual upheaval in the Ukraine. While registering much of the disaffection that supposedly looms in the former Soviet Union, Krishtofovich has crafted his own impassive spell of cinematic glasnost.
Anatoli (Alexandre Lazarev) is an intellectual with academic credentials that have become obsolete in a changing world. He cannot find work and, to add to his humiliation, must use his English literature training to tutor the emerging business elites. His calamitous situation is only worsened by the discovery that his wife Katia (Angelika Nevolina) is leaving him for another man.
His good friend Dima (Eugen Pachin) has the answer to this dilemma: Hire one of Kiev's numerous contract killers and have the slattern rubbed out. The depressed Anatoli doesn't even take to this idea, though. Instead, he decides to use the hit man to have himself done in, and arranges for the job to happen in one of his favorite little cafes.
When Anatoli goes to the agreed-upon place and is kicked out on its early closure for a birthday party, his plight moves from the tragic to the ridiculous. A series of twists affect his disturbed state, including meeting Vika (Tatiana Krivitska), a spry young hooker, and soon his resuscitated view of life jars against the arrangements of the film's first third.
Krishtofovich, working from a screenplay by satirist Andreï Kourkov, concocts a brooding work that, at its best moments, resembles Bertolucci's "Last Tango in Paris," but lacks that classic's fundamental, driving tensions. Long on ideology and short on solid dramatization, "A Friend of the Deceased" feels almost postmortem.