THE SEASON OF MISTS
Anna Tchernakova and Evgenia Tirdatova
Based on an original idea by Anna Tchernakova
This work has been registered with:
Writers Guild of America, West
REGISTRATION # 1155830
EXT. FIELDS NEAR A SMALL ENGLISH VILLAGE - DAY A green, foggy English countryside with gentle hills and a valley. An imposing disused viaduct crosses the valley from left to right, stepping over a road that leads to an older village whose church steeple and roofs loom behind the hills. A lonely female figure is walking along the viaduct. It's MARINA. She is around forty, has a soft, Slavic face. She is dressed in a coat and carries a purse. She steps over a rail and stops. The rails are rusty but have dark smudges of diesel suggesting that the track is still used occasionally. Marina looks ahead, then moves her eyes to the fields below. The height frightens her. MARINA (in Russian) Oh my God! She stumbles, regains her balance and steps away from the abyss. EXT. LONDON, CAFé NEAR OXFORD STREET Autumn. A lively narrow street in central London with a row of small cafes. Despite the cold weather, people sit at the tables outside. The only tree, surrounded by an impeccable grey pavement, is silently shedding its leaves. One leaf lands on a table, narrowly missing a plate with the left-overs of lunch. DASHA, Marina's teenage daughter, in that transitional state when each limb grows at a different mismatched speed, mindlessly picks up the leaf. Dasha is visibly bored and during the following scene she is slowly finishing her pink-coloured smoothie, while at the same time constantly texting from her mobile. Marina doesn't notice the leaf and looks across the table at VALYA, an energetic, cheerful plump woman in an outfit which is expensive, but a bit too loud. MARINA (in Russian, smiling) You know, I wouldn't have recognized you in the crowd! The haircut - and (she makes a gesture, looking for the word) the dress - and you've lost weight! VALYA (in Russian, flattered) Oh never mind. You know, Dasha has grown so! She looks exactly like her… Valya stops herself and takes a sip of coffee. Changing the subject, she opens her purse and digs out a book with a bright shiny cover. She gives the book to Marina. Marina opens it, smiles at the dedication hand-written on the first page, leafs through a few pages and turns the book around to read the blurb. MARINA (surprised) Thirteenth novel?! VALYA What do you think? Two or three a year, my publishers won't let me stop... That's what's called 'I happened to be in the right place at the right time'. (changing her tone) And what about you? MARINA (evasively) I write for a small magazine in English. VALYA Wow! Like Nabokov!... And what about writing in Russian? MARINA Ah. Who needs it here? Dasha gets up silently, leaves her mobile on the table and walks inside the cafe. WOMEN watch her. VALYA (in a hushed voice) Does she ever speak about her father? MARINA (sighing) Never. She is silent for a moment. MARINA I still shake when I think of that. Blood everywhere. Valya nods sympathetically. MARINA All he wanted was to do things honestly. But what can you do in a criminal state!... I am so grateful that you helped, sold the flat for me... VALYA Forget about it, it's all in the past. She looks around for a waiter. VALYA More tea?... How come you have not learned to drink your tea with milk, you, an English lady?... Marian smiles, shrugs. Valya waves to the WAITER. VALYA And how's Gregory? marina He's fine. Kind, nice...Very good with Dasha, even spoils her a bit. I don't regret it now. I think I am lucky. VALYA Then why don't you have a baby? It would be so good for him... and for Dasha too. . . MARINA He can't have children, it's a long story...but Dasha alone is enough...a real handful. . . from HOMELESS With some hesitation, Marina opens her backpack and takes out a manuscript. She puts it on the table between herself and Valya. MARINA Could I ask you - if it's not too much trouble? Perhaps you'll have a chance to show it to someone in Moscow? Valya smiles and determinedly takes the manuscript. VALYA Don't worry, dear. How can you call it trouble?!... You helped me so much at uni. When I think about it, you were the most talented in our year, you know! Marina, embarrassed, shakes her head. MARINA Please stop it. By the way, how's Liliana Sergeevna? VALYA (thumbing through the manuscript) You won't believe it, but she's getting younger every day. She goes on singles chat rooms and flirts with young men. Has lots of lectures and seminars, too, she teaches at three private colleges. You know how it is now, they've finally realised that everyone needs an old pro! Something on the page attracts her attention, she silently reads a sentence and laughs. VALYA (with interest) What is it? MARINA (with hesitation) Fairy-tales. VALYA (incredulous) Fairy-tales? MARINA Yes. For grown-ups. VALYA (puzzled) OK, why not?... Cruel? MARINA Why cruel? VALYA Cruel people - cruel fairy tales. Marina smiles. MARINA Here people are kind. VALYA You are crazy. But on reflection, you've always been strange. Fairy-tales! Dasha comes back to the table, picks up her mobile and starts checking text messages. Valya looks at the girl with a smile. VALYA (loudly) Daria, why are you ignoring us? DASHA (to Marina, in English) What? MARINA (in English) Aunt Valya asks why you are texting all the time and not joining in the conversation. . . VALYA (interrupting) Mother, why are you acting as an interpreter? MARINA (guiltily) Well, I do try to speak Russian to her, but everything around is in English, so she's being lazy. . . VALYA (cheerfully) Dashka, you are so big now...it seems only yesterday that I put you on a potty. . . DASHA (repeats in Russian) A potty? MARINA (in English) Valya says that she remembers you when you were still a baby. . . VALYA (interrupting) Aunt Valya says that she wants to give you a treat...Would you like another dessert? DASHA (with interest) A dessert? EXT COMMERCIAL STREET IN LODNON, DAY Marina, Dasha and Valya walk in the crowd. Marina and Valya walk a bit ahead, talking. Dasha follows behind, now with MP3 player and earphones. MARINA Listen, why don't you come over. We haven't even had time to talk properly! VALYA Oh I know. . . (kisses her on the cheek) . . .I told you that I'd have to sit at that silly Forum. I am not quite sure what I am doing there. But since they paid for my ticket. . . They both laugh. VALYA They have a huge program of future events, so next time I'll try to get a couple of extra days and. . . (cheerfully) . . .check out your country life. . . She slows down and looks at Marina with attention. VALYA Are you ok? I mean...are you? MARINA Don't worry, I'm really fine...What about you? Valya waves her arm, heads forward again. VALYA Well, I am just getting on with my life...I work, and work, and work...Sometimes, you know, being alone. . . (she sighs) . . .well, there is a guy. . . (she hesitates, then shakes her head) . . .but it's not important. (cheerful again) One has a family, another has a career. It doesn't all happen together for some reason. . . She stops suddenly. VALYA Listen, don't you have a birthday tomorrow?!... Shame on me, I'd forgotten... and I don't even have a present!. . . REVERSE POV MARINA Stop it, I don't need any present. VALYA Let's buy you something...some nice clothes...Look, there's Miss Selfridge...What do you fancy? MARINA Stop acting like a millionaire. I've got everything I need. VALYA Well, let's at least buy something for Dasha, eh? She doesn't wait for an answer, grabs Dasha's hand and walks her energetically to a display of pullovers and tops at the entrance to the shop. Dasha turns around and looks at Marina. MARINA (nods and sighs) Valya wants to buy you a present. Choose something. Marina watches Valya and Dasha excitedly looking through merchandise. Finally, Dasha chooses. Valya pays and gives the bag to Dasha. DASHA (in Russian) Thank you very much. VALYA See, you can speak Russian after all. She spreads her arms and hugs Marina and Dasha. MARINA Let us at least see you to the tube. VALYA Don't worry. I remember, it's just around the corner. . .See you, girls! (turning round as she leaves) And I know who to show your fairy-tales to, so wait for some news. . . She runs across the street. 4. EXT/INT. TRAIN - DAY 4. The train leaves the outskirts of the city, and there is now rolling countryside with occasional houses, power lines, rivers, construction and fields again...Marina is reading Valya's book. Dasha is sitting across the table, hidden behind the tacky pink and silver cover of a teen magazine. Marina sighs and puts the book aside. Dasha glances at her above the magazine, thinking. DASHA Mum, this friend of yours, Aunt Vilya. . MARINA (correcting her) Valya. . . DASHA Yeaa, Valya, whatever...Is she rich? MARINA She's a writer. DASHA You're a writer, too. MARINA Well, she writes books, which everyone in Moscow buys. A bit like J.K. Rowling. . . DASHA Cool!... Mum, how about you write some proper books too... (with enthusiasm) . . .you'll become rich and famous as well! Marina doesn't reply and turns away to the window. 5. EXT. SMALL STATION - DAY 5. As the train slows down along the platform, Dasha pushes the window down, and sticks out her head. The only person on the platform is a slightly stooping, stocky man in a sweatshirt with the logo of a football club. It's GREGORY. He is in his fifties but looks strong and healthy, with vivid dark eyes and dark hair. He looks at the windows of the train. Dasha waves. Gregory smiles, waves back and walks quickly to the carriage. . . Gregory, Marina and Dasha walk along the platform and go down the ramp, passing through the old building of the station itself to a place in front where the car is parked, away from a taxi with a DOZING DRIVER. GREGORY Did you have a nice time? DASHA Yeaa. MARINA Valya says hello. GREGORY Thanks. Is she still as...pretty as she was? He waves his hand to outline Valya's figure as he remembers her. Marina laughs and shrugs her shoulders. MARINA Almost the same...She writes thrillers now. DASHA (to Gregory) How was the game? GREGORY (turning away from Marina) Two-Nil. 6. EXT. SMALL ENGLISH VILLAGE, VILLAGE GREEN - EVENING 6. Gregory stops the car near a small old brick cottage facing the village green. Near the house there is a pub and a bus stop. A bit further on - a corner shop (now closed), a war monument and the entrance to a miniscule hairdressers. The village green seems deserted except for VOICES coming from the pub's door, and a smartly dressed Indian teenager (PRANAV) who is hanging round idly at the bus stop. He notices Dasha getting out of the car, smiles and waves to her. Dasha stops with an unwelcoming expression. Pranav gestures inviting her to come closer, but Dasha shakes her head and points to her parents, who are getting out of the car. She does, however, go a few steps towards the bus stop before stopping a safe distance halfway from the car. MARINA (Gregory) Do you know him? GREGORY A good boy. Dr. Metha's son. A bus appears from around the corner, slows down and stops at the bus stop. The bus is empty except for a small old man in a cap with a halo of white hair (DARBY), who nods to Marina and Gregory. GREGORY You alright, Darby? DARBY Everything's fine, everything's fine. GREGORY How are things at the field? DARBY They haven't arrived yet, haven't arrived yet, but I'm ready. GREGORY Well, you take care. DARBY And you too, dear. You too. He touches the side of his cap in farewell, turns around and starts towards the pub. MARINA Darby! Darby turns around. MARINA I want to write something about you for the Parish magazine. May I? Darby looks puzzled. DARBY It's very kind, but there are so many others...But why? MARINA Will you tell me about the Standing Stone? It's important, isn't it? DARBY Well, if it's so. . . (looks at Marina seriously) Yes it's very important. Very. The bus is still waiting on the village green, with its doors open, while Pranav, half-way into the bus, is quickly tapping a text message. Judging by the actions of Dasha, who, still a few metres away, is tapping on her mobile with the same speed, they are sending text messages to each other. Finally the bus driver, a big tired-looking man (PETER), loses patience. PETER Hey, son, are we going anywhere today or not? Pranav nods, finishing his message. Dasha turns around and walks to the house. Pranav looks at her, then goes inside the bus. The bus, looking like a big illuminated fish tank, drives through the village. 7. EXT. FIELD NEAR THE VILLAGE, STANDING STONE - EVENING 7. A slightly slanted Standing Stone looms at the top of a small hill. Darby is sitting by the Stone. He has a half-finished beer and an old amateur telescope on a tripod pointed to the sky. 8. INT. GREGORY'S AND MARINA'S HOUSE, BEDROOM - NIGHT 8. Marina is in bed, her eyes open. Gregory is snoring softly. He moans in his dream, turns over and puts his arm around Marina. Marina waits for a moment, then gently crawls from under his arm. She switches the bed light on, takes Valya's book from the floor and starts reading. The clock on the village church chimes. The darkness outside the window lifts, giving way to a new day. 9. INT. GREGORY'S AND MARINA'S HOUSE, KITCHEN - MORNING 9. Wrapped in a warm dressing gown, Marina enters the kitchen. Dasha, already dressed in her school uniform and with neatly brushed hair, is at the table, with a book and a bowl of porridge. A dirty pan, and a jar of honey with a spoon inside are left on the counter by the sink. Dasha takes her eyes from the book and looks at Marina in surprise. DASHA You're early! Are you going somewhere? MARINA No. Just can't sleep anymore. . . Dasha produces a card and a nicely wrapped package. The card has a big number 45 on the front. DASHA Happy Birthday! You're really ancient now, but don't be too upset! Dasha kisses her on the cheek. Marina smiles and unwraps the present. It's a book entitled 'Life Begins After 45'. MARINA (shakes her head, smiling) Thanks. While waiting for the kettle to boil, Marina retrieves the spoon from the honey jar and absent-mindedly licks it. It's raining outside. Marina warms her hands on a hot mug, looking out at the wet garden. DASHA (OFF SCREEN) See you. There is the sound of the slammed door. Marina turns around. Dasha has left. Marina walks to the front door, opens it, looks outside. Dasha quickly walks to the bus stop. MARINA Dasha! Dasha! Dasha turns around. MARINA What about your coat? DASHA Don't need it. She turns away and speeds up. MARINA Wait! She throws on a raincoat, wraps it around her dressing gown and puts her bare feet inside a pair of boots. On her way out, she stumbles on a nondescript old rug lying by the front door. Irritated, she kicks it away. 10. INT. VILLAGE, VILLAGE GREEN - DAY 10. Marina runs out of the house. Holding the raincoat with one hand, and carrying Dasha's coat in the other, Marina runs across the square towards the bus stop where several uniformly-dressed TEENAGERS are getting inside a school bus. Marina climbs a few steps and looks inside the bus. The DRIVER and the teenagers, including Pranav, look at her with curiosity. Dasha gets off her seat and steps down to Marina, gently forcing her out of the bus. DASHA (whispering with irritation) I told you I don't need a coat! Marina steps back helplessly. The bus drives away. 11. INT. GREGORY AND MARINA'S HOUSE, KITCHEN - DAY 11. Gregory, in a warm dressing gown similar to Marina's, is standing by the kitchen counter chewing a piece toast with jam and looking through the sports pages of a newspaper. He looks like a big blue teddy bear. He hears Marina enter the house and looks up. Fighting tears, Marina puts her raincoat and Dasha's coat on a hook. She stumbles once again over the rug, picks it up, opens the door and throws it outside. GREGORY Happy Birthday, darling! He reaches to kiss Marina, but Marina turns away and goes to the sink to wash her hands. GREGORY What's happened? MARINA She went without her coat again! GREGORY (reconciliatory) Would you like some tea? Marina nods, still fighting tears. MARINA She'll catch a cold and cough all winter! I can't stand it. . .. Gregory puts a cup of tea in front of her. Marina mindlessly takes a sip. MARINA Could you speak to her please?! If you speak, she'll listen! GREGORY Don't worry. She'll toughen up. When I was a boy I never wore anything except a tee-shirt. . .. Marina is silent, and Gregory returns to his newspaper. GREGORY (checking football results) I've promised to help Jonathan with the sheep tonight. . . Marina puts her cup on the table. MARINA Can't the sheep wait till tomorrow?... It's my birthday by the way. GREGORY (lost) Yes of course, but...I've already promised, it'd be embarrassing...But what would you like to do? We can have dinner in the pub I suppose. . . MARINA (unexpectedly) I want to go to the theatre. GREGORY (puzzled) The theatre?... Finally, he takes his eyes off the football page, but Marina is no longer there, only her dressing gown is lying thrown on the back of a kitchen chair.