Shchedrik / Carol of the Bells Movie Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

On January 5, the Ukrainian-Polish historical drama “Shchedryk” from director Olesya Morgunets-Isaenko was released on the big screens of Ukraine. The world premiere of the film took place on March 4, 2022. We had no time for cinema back then, but the film managed to travel around the world and attend various festivals in many countries. We finally watched it too, so now we are ready to share our impressions.

Pros: maximum veracity of the selected historical period, synchronization with the feelings of modern Ukrainians, incredible attention to detail, good acting, the film debut of Yana Koroleva is especially impressive Cons: mediocre performance of child actors in very important scenes, some illogicalities in the plot and actions of the characters, too straightforward horror show Soviet power, the song “Shchedrik” is not always appropriate

“Shchedrik” / Carol of the Bells

Genre history, drama
Director Olesya Morgunets-Isaenko
Cast: Yana Koroleva, Andrey Mostrenko, Polina Gromova, Anastasia Mateshko, Ioanna Opozda, Miroslav Ganishevsky, Tomas Sobchak, Alla Bineeva, Kristina Ushitskaya, Oksana Mukha
Premiere cinemas
Release year 2022
IMDb website

1939 City of Stanislaviv (Ivano-Frankivsk). Ukrainian, Jewish and Polish families live in the same house. Not all is well in relations between them, especially between the Poles and Ukrainians. But the occupation of Poland by the Germans with the help of the Soviet Union brings people together and shows who the real enemy is here.

Next there will be a long war, and then the “liberators” the communists will come. Some will be taken to camps in Germany, some will be taken away by the “Soviets,” but in this house there will always be a place for humanity, courage and love. After time and adversity, “Shchedrik” plays, which “makes people kinder.”

Work on the Shchedrik film began long before the start of the full-scale invasion. Back then, few could have imagined that Ukrainian viewers would so well understand the main characters, who hear the howling of sirens and hide from bombings in basements.

The viewer is familiar with the whole range of emotions of the characters when “liberators” come to their city, change their flags to others, and resettle the military in the apartments of those who were killed or taken away to torture.

All these moments from the history of Ukraine are now very well synchronized with reality, so the viewer quickly dissolves in the film literally from the first minutes after it starts. Of course, in this case there is also a peaceful life, quarrels over trifles, clashes between families, misunderstanding and lack of evidence. But it is moments like these that intensify the pain, suffering and despair that comes to the heroes’ house and remains there forever.

“Shchedrik” was shot with high quality, and the picture was probably passed through some kind of filter that makes the movie “antique”, and therefore more authentic. The limited budget is also striking, so 95% of the timing takes place in the house where the main characters live. And yet the film team conveyed the atmosphere of that time well. Here, the interior details, clothing, dialect, food, customs and a bunch of other important little things are very carefully selected.

The song “Shchedrik” itself is heard often and at every opportunity, it symbolizes hope for a bright future. True, in some moments its execution seemed illogical or meaningless, but in most cases its content, importance and sacred meaning for our people were conveyed as accurately as possible.

“Shchedrik” does a good job of revealing the themes of the Holocaust, USSR repressions against Poles and Ukrainians, the cruelty and stubbornness of the Soviet regime. But still, these moments are shown too straightforwardly and rudely, without omissions, gray undertones and double layers that make a good movie outstanding.

Many cool Ukrainian and Polish actors have starred in films. But the biggest impression is made by one of the main characters – music teacher Sofia Ivanyuk. Her role was played by Yana Koroleva and it was the girl’s film debut.

If I had not found this fact on the Internet, I would never have thought that this was the first film work for the actress. She had the difficult and varied role of a wife and mother who sees the death of family members. She suffers and despairs, is afraid and cries, but remains indestructible to the end.

The roles of the Germans, various Soviet party members and the military were played incredibly. The children did their job very well, but they became the weakest point of the film. Of course, I make allowances for the fact that it is difficult for a child to play, especially in such a serious film. But still, their mostly mediocre acting ruins the impression of several extremely important plot points. I can’t help but notice that this only applies to some important scenes. Because the children did an excellent job in all other places.

There is also illogicality in the actions of some of the characters, and sometimes the plot openings did not lead to further development of the story. But all this is just a pale shadow of troubles. They cannot desecrate a well-made Ukrainian film that everyone should watch.


“Shchedryk” is a good Ukrainian movie, made with love and respect for history and people. This is a skillfully conveyed historical period that is painful for us, echoing the present like never before, and therefore almost immediately finds a response in the hearts of the audience. Despite some shortcomings in the plot and gaps in the acting of the children, “Shchedryk” should be watched by every Ukrainian. Despite all the horrors shown there, this film gives hope and does it with the help of the best and most famous carol in the world

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