Navalny (2022): A Movie Review

James Lanternman
5 min readSep 14, 2022
Image © CNN Films
Image © CNN Films

Navalny prompted me to stop what I was doing, and write about it with a sense of urgency. I love when that happens. It is a documentary with impact. It leaves you feeling clear about things that can’t just be looked up on Google, or consumed through social media. For me, these are some of the best qualities of non-fiction films.

It received no cinema run after premiering at Sundance in January, then being picked up for distribution by Warner Bros. Pictures. Instead, it has been shown on various TV channels, in various countries at various times, with mixed availability on the big streaming services.

So it will have flown under the radar for many, which I can only describe as un asco. It deserves more public discourse than Don’t Look Up got last December. Except for Fire of Love (which belongs in some special category of its own, it is so mesmerising) it is the best documentary I have seen this year. It is the most relevant documentary I have seen for a long time.

If you aren’t going to watch many documentaries this year, watch this one. Fire of Love is great, but it can be enjoyed at any time. This one should be watched now, as the Russo-Ukrainian War continues and the Russian invasion kills more each day — including civilian targets, child casualties, and reports of people with disabilities (including children) being used as human shields.

Track this film down as you can, and give it a watch.

Alexei Navalny is a leader of the non-systemic opposition (read: “real” opposition) in Russia who built traction, support, and fame as a bold and uncompromising Putin critic. You may remember him as the man in the news who was poisoned by the Novichok nerve agent in August 2020, lucky to survive after an embattled emergency evacuation to Berlin for medical attention.

He was put in a medically-induced coma, and survived. Also, thanks to the evacuation to Germany, traces of the poison were found (it is engineered by Russia to leave no trace after a few hours).

Canadian Daniel Roher directs, with filming starting shortly after Navalny came out of the coma. It continued right through to the moment he flew back to Russia, where he was arrested on arrival, and remains in jail there today.

James Lanternman

Movie reviews, essays, and moonlit thoughts.