Irish filmmaker Johnny O'Reilly exhibits such a confident understanding of Moscow in his latest Russian-language film that you'd think he was a native. He captures the Russian capital with grand landscape photography before zeroing in on intimate, familial territory as he weaves the story of several characters over the course of a day. It's Moscow City Day, to be specific -- a day of celebration -- but we're led to believe otherwise when one of the leads, a TV actor played by Yuriy Stoyanov, wakes up in a hospital and, told he's in neither heaven nor hell but Moscow, responds, "Must be hell."
We also meet his wife, his mistress and his "prodigal son," who rekindles a romance with his ex, a pop singer, who now lives with a rich businessman who flees the country after a deal goes bad. There's also an alcoholic man whose senile mother is bound for a senior home, as well as two teen stepsisters who get involved in a seedy situation with a gang of hoodlums who kidnap the actor at one point. There's a lot happening here -- perhaps too much. Moscow Never Sleeps is ambitious to a fault. While O'Reilly flexes an ability to tie together several narratives at once, he introduces so many characters that some of their stories must fall by the wayside. It's a shame because that muddles the more interesting vignettes, such as the actor's abduction or the bickering sisters who later pull their own trick on the abductors.