More romance and less soccer in See You Soon (2019)

See You Soon (2019) 
До скорой встречи

See You Soon (До скорой встречи) is a beguiling romance that combines fairy tale, travelogue, and a little bit of soccer. 

Can America have a male soccer star who is a recognizable face worldwide but plays in the USA? To American hearts still aching from the failure to qualify in T&T, it feels like a fantasy. Adding to the soccer fairytale, the ridiculously handsome Ryan Hawkes (Liam McIntyre) plays for the storied Los Angeles SC. (That’s LASC, not Bob Bradley’s LAFC). Celebrity has gone to Ryan’s head, and he’s a jerk who throws champagne and cocktail glasses when he’s mad drunk. Driving while intoxicated, he suffers a major knee injury and a media backlash.

But I digress, because this modern fairytale romance is not about Ryan. It is really about Lana (Jenia Tanaeva), a Russian mom and amateur photographer with a burly abusive husband. She adores her son Danny, whose favorite footballer is, of course, Ryan Hawkes. Lana and Danny move out, and Lana gets a job bartending on a very small cruise ship in the Mediterranean. There she meets Ryan, who is running away from his problems. 

They fraternize, she gets fired, Carles Puyol puts them up in a luxury suite on a Greek island, they fall in love, but it’s all too fast. Lana returns to her native St. Petersburg and like Deborah Kerr, she gives Ryan no contact info but tells him if they are fated to be together, they will meet in 2 months in her city’s Palace Square. 

Of course, Fate intervenes and blocks the two lovers. It is up to Ryan to solve the puzzle, jump across a drawbridge, and find his destiny.

Yes, the storyline is trite —except for that soccer fantasy and the drawbridge— and could easily be mistaken for a Lifetime TV movie. Yes, it borrows from An Affair to Remember, Maid in Manhattan, or as reviewer Katie Walsh pointed out, the reality show The Bachelor. The editing leaves a number of holes in the story, and except for Lana, the characters are overly simplified; e.g. we only see Harvey Keitel chew scenery as Ryan’s football agent.

And yet, much of the film looks expensive, it is a great travelogue, the small twists at the end are clever, and the actors are well-directed. So I enjoyed See You Soon and afterward wanted to book travel to Russia and Greece.

About the soccer scenes

Although filmed in Romania’s Cluj Arena, the football is mostly CGI. Carles Puyol and his wife are a pleasant addition. There are also scenes with Vladislav Radimov, former captain of FC Zenit St. Petersburg. 

I really enjoyed the scene where Ryan throws a large shot glass into a TV where Alexi Lalas is demanding that Ryan’s DUI should end his career. DUIs are a big problem, but that on-target shot glass just felt so good. 

One of the holes in the story is Ryan’s miraculous recovery; anyone who’s had a surgical pin in their knee knows you can’t play at World Cup level a few months later. Bridging scenes that would have demonstrated Ryan’s progression to soccer greatness were not included. 

David Mahmoudieh was selected to direct his first feature film in part because he is a football fan and wanted to make a football film, and he had experience filming cruise commercials. In the initial LASC soccer game, the opponents are his homage to The Lost Boys. The opponent club Santa Carla is the name of the town from that film (which is actually a pseudonym for the city of Santa Cruz). The actors’ names are on the backs of the jerseys, such as the 2 Cory’s (Haim and Feldman). 

An interesting side note is that Ryan’s club team could have been LAFC instead of the fictional LASC. But at the time of shooting, LAFC had not yet played its first game and of course had other priorities. Imagine the commercial impact of this film, had LAFC had been part of the package…

About the sex scenes, or lack thereof

I always mention if a film has sex scenes that a parent needs to be aware of. This film is rated R, but I don’t know why, because I watched it on Hoopla, which is a service provided by the public library. The Hoopla version had no nudity and only one shot of Ryan’s chest, which would put a washboard to shame, but is not by itself R-rated material.

Some reviews have mentioned the inconsistent appearance of the cruise ship. The originally planned cruise line could not be used, necessitating building ship sets in Romania.

The story behind the story

You could almost say that See You Soon is based on a true story, because Jenia Tanaeva wrote this romance from many parts of her own life. As a single mom in St Petersburg, she went to Hollywood and within 10 years was producing and starring in this movie, which she wrote. 

Jenia Tanaeva
“If you can dream it, you can achieve it,” opines Tanaeva in many interviews.

Thus the theme of the film as well as her promotional interviews is to inspire other single moms to believe in themselves and to be brave enough to better their lives.

With the look and manner of a chaste Suzanne Somers, and a social media feed that lobs bonbons at lovelorn romantics, Tanaeva seems poised to become a celebrity-branded business in cosmetics, fashion, or self-help.

However, when I researched Tanaeva, I was intrigued that I could not find much about her that was independently reported. It felt like she was in total control of her own narrative. I couldn’t even find out how old she is or the name of her first husband, who supposedly is a Russian wrestling champion. I searched the various forms of her name: Женя Танаева, Евге́ния Никола́евна Тана́ева, and Jenia, Evgenia, and Zhenya Tanaeva. 

My research lead me to conclude that Tanaeva came to Hollywood around 2008. In 2009, Martin Pompadur’s company announced she would be the host and spokesperson of a Russian version of Hollywood Reporter. I don’t know if that program came to fruition, but Tanaeva was living in one of his mansions, and it appears that they may have eventually married and divorced. Pomapdur is an 83 year old media executive, formerly in charge at ABC, Ziff, News Corp, and many other companies. It was very interesting that I could find very little info about a guy that wealthy, which made me think that Zanaeva and Pompadur have internet privacy privileges that the rest of the population should envy. 

I just consider it misleading to promote oneself as an inspirational self-made single mom when one or more sugar daddies have funded everything. (I hope this opinion does not subject me to attacks by Russian trolls.) 

OTOH, if my research is wrong, then Tanaeva would be in the same self-made league as Sylvester Stallone (Rocky) and Ali MacGraw (Love Story). Ali MacGraw reportedly had the rights to Love Story, convinced Robert Evans to make the movie with her in her first starring role, the film and she were a big hit, and she eventually married Evans, who was the head of the studio.

The bottom line

Despite the discontinuities, I found See You Soon entertaining, even if it is not the more dramatic and substantial soccer movie it could have been. Under less talented direction, it could have been hard to watch. But in the category of first-feature-film-by-a-director, this is one of the best that I’ve reviewed, so enjoy it despite its flaws.

In English and Russian with English sub-titles. In Russian the title is До скорой встречи

7 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 7