Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov’s latest, the aptly titled Leto (Summer), is a helium-light work about scruffy young Soviets in 1980 making music, partying, flirting and quietly defying the state, roughly in that order. Certainly, it’s a much more jovial affair than his last, The Student [HIFF 2016] […]. This time the young people are the good guys, determined to smuggle the rebellious spirit of Western rock, punk and New Wave music into a pre-perestroika Leningrad that’s still highly repressive.
Politics and ideology are […] treated by the characters – who are based on real Soviet pop stars Viktor Tsoi of the band Kino and Mike Naumenko of Zoopark – as sort of a fuddy-duddy joke. […] At heart, [the film is] more concerned with capturing the feel of the early ‘80s, the paranoia but also spirit of communal life in crowded apartment blocks. There are some beautifully fluid performance sequences and many scenes of the ensemble boozing, jabbering and jamming spontaneously in dilapidated apartments […].
Visually, it [is] tightly choreographed and carefully lit by DP Vladislav Opelyants (who also shot The Student). For the most part, the film unfolds in luscious black and white, apart from a few Super 8mm-style inserts in the music sections. Given Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War [Opening Gala, HIFF 2018] is also a study in monochrome, do two films both playing in Cannes competition  make a trend? Even though both are period dramas, the grayness of their palettes seems oddly appropriate to these grim times.
Leslie Felperin, The Hollywood Reporter