It may not be obvious, but I try to put a bit of effort into this sort of thing. And by a bit of effort, that usually means pecking out 500 words and doing my best to make it look and read like a review you could see in the culture section of a newspaper or magazine. I’m still waiting for the call-up to the pros so we can debate how successful or otherwise I’ve been over the last decade. Hint: not very.

Anyway, the reason I mention this is because it’s a commitment that’s easier for some movies than it is for others. The Lost City, for example, I could quite happily have taken another 1,000 words going on about things I loved about it. Your Highness, on the other hand, I believe I chickened out after the opening preamble to instead deliver a recipe for jambalaya. Compartment No. 6 is a strange sort of in-between. It feels like I could talk about it for a while, but I’m not sure how much I want to.

Directed by Juho Kuosmanen and based on the 2011 novel of the same name by Rosa Liksom, the movie follows Laura (Seidi Haarla), a Finnish student living in Moscow with her somewhat ambivalent lover, who travels by train the 1,200 miles north to Murmansk, up near the Finnish/Swedish border, to see some ancient petroglyphs. In the train, her compartment-mate is a gruff Russian laborer or miner, Lyokha (Yuri Borisov), who is a bit of a drunken mess when he meets Laura for the first time and within five minutes, he assumes she’s a prostitute and starts talking about her genitals. Off to a bad start, then. Over the course of the movie, Laura and Lyokha grow to understand each other and a strange bond develops between them. And that’s about it. Oh, and it snows a lot.

My difficulty in bonding with the movie starts with the ambiguity that permeates it. It never really establishes what year we’re in. It seems old. It seems eighties. The music is eighties. The Rubik’s Cube solution discussion is eighties. The presentation of transport problems in Russia feels pretty eighties. We see cassette tapes and an old Sony camcorder. But then there’s a section where they discuss Titanic, which definitely isn’t eighties.

Then we have Lyokha, and really nothing about him is revealed enough to allow us to join the dots with him. His purpose for traveling to Murmansk seems to be for work, but the type of work isn’t really explained and his position in the organization is unclear. He seems to be connected in some manner but we don’t know why or how. Halfway through the journey, he stops off to meet with an old woman who he says isn’t his mother, but then never explains who she is. He steals a car to do this. None of this is explained or mentioned again.

And then there’s the whole keystone of the movie; the relationship between Lyokha and Laura. Given that he essentially assaults her in their first scene, any progression is a mystery, and yet the relationship does develop and Laura at several points puts her trust in this man where everything she knows about him has to be through the lens of their introduction. From his point of view, he becomes enamored with Laura despite reacting dismissively toward her reasons for travel.

I’ve really enjoyed seeing as many foreign-language movies as I’ve seen over the last few months, and I’m grateful that more and more seem to be finding their way into our local theaters. This Finnish/Russian collaboration certainly provides an insight into how stories can be told so very differently across different cultures. Plus, there’s little moments that illuminate my ignorance where the introduction of another Finnish character means that for long periods, I wasn’t sure which language they were all speaking or who understood what.

Despite perfectly decent acting, with its bleak palette and presentation of depressing ways to travel long distances, the movie was too much of a struggle, and its inability to throw me a bone or show me some way to connect left me underwhelmed, full of questions and confusion, and entirely surprised that I’ve managed to write this much without reaching for the recipe book.