It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Housing space is at a premium in Russia, and the young man is happy to be assigned a room in an apartment already filled with as many people as one of those crowded warrens in "Crime and Punishment." What amazes him is how many pianos there are in the apartment. "We work at the factory," a resident helpfully explains. That means they have more pianos than they need - but not enough, of course, food, clothing or vodka.
One night the new boarder, a teacher whose name is Nikolai, sees a ghostly visitor in the apartment. The others see her, too, and explain that she is an old woman, looking for her cat, which has gone missing ever since her death. Where is the cat? Its disappearance holds a clue to the movie's comic premise, which is that by stepping through a mirror in the old woman's room, you can be magically transported from St. Petersburg to Paris.
Paris is of course everything St. Petersburg is not: a consumer paradise where the shelves of the stores are bursting with bounty.
Soon Nikolai and the others are moving back and forth between Russia and France almost as a daily commute. And the director, Yuri Mamin, is making jokes that I imagine resonate a great deal more deeply, and even painfully, in Russia than in France - or America.