John Burnside at The Guardian:
Towards the end of Darragh McKeon's powerful and moving account of the Chernobyl disaster, two old dissidents are discussing the past. The younger, a former journalist named Maria, wants to know if her elderly acquaintance would have “put up some kind of resistance” if he could “have those years back”, to which he replies: “There was no resistance. Resist what? There were no rights or wrongs, no grey areas, there was just the system. I did all I could do, I survived.” The man – mischievously named Leibniz, after that most optimistic of philosophers – had survived 10 years in the gulag camps; now he earns a living by teaching piano to children. One of them is Maria's troubled nephew, Yevgeni, a child “genius” who, shamed by his poverty and bullied daily by his classmates, takes to the streets during a spontaneous demonstration. It's a scene that brilliantly captures the random fury that breaks out among the oppressed; ironically, this one night of violent catharsis allows him to find his true direction, a path that will lead to international stardom as a concert pianist. That fury will remain with him, the bright, fierce ember of another kind of resistance, in his music and in his soul.