The Russian film “Row 19” is a morbid combination of the supernatural horror and disaster-film genres, but it ultimately manages to present the worst of both worlds. The film tells an utterly confusing tale of a doctor and her six-year-old daughter flying aboard an airplane. The plot of the film, its storytelling, and craft fall apart as much as the old aircraft shown, and the experience is a disappointing one, easily forgettable.
‘Row 19’ Plot Summary
The film begins with a middle-aged woman traveling with her young daughter, Katya, aboard an airplane through extremely stormy weather outside. Amidst a lot of turmoil and chaos inside the aircraft, Katya wakes up from her sleep and finds herself alone. Hearing some whispers and mumbling from a seat behind her, the little girl turns to see an old woman chanting some foreign-sounding words, and when the latter opens her eyes, they are seen to be unnaturally white with no pupils. As the plane crashes downwards in mid-air, a bloodied and alive Katya is seen walking through a forest after somehow surviving the accident, till the film cuts forward in time. Through newspaper articles, it is established that twenty years have passed since that accident, and now one day, a team of reporters approaches a now middle-aged Katya to ask about her experiences in the past. Katya, who is accompanied by her own six-year-old daughter, Diana, tries to avoid directly talking about the horrific event in her past, and only says that she tries not to remember it. Diana unknowingly helps her mother by taking the conversation in a different direction, as she childishly talks about Katya’s strong will to fight her fears. As it becomes clearer to audiences that something sinister might have happened aboard the crashing flight, Diana reveals that her mother is no longer scared of flying. In fact, they are about to take a flight to visit Diana’s grandfather the next day. The reporters present the interview and their show as one about the human will to get over one’s fears, and the mother and daughter are seen entering their flight the next night. The night’s weather is once again treacherous, with a tremendous storm with frequent snowfall. However, this is only the beginning of Katya’s troubles as she gradually gets pulled into a night of strange occurrences amidst a situation that looks increasingly more like the accident twenty years ago.
Major Spoilers Ahead
What Does Katya Experience Through The Flight? Why Is She Freaked Out By Them?
Due to the formidable weather outside and the resulting cancellation of most flights, the total number of people aboard the airplane Katya and Diana take is significantly low, with seven passengers and two cabin attendants. The other passengers include an elderly couple, Evgeniy and Galena, a rich, arrogant businessman, Nikolay, a long-haired, socially awkward young man named Pavel, and Alexey, a man around the same age as Katya. Strange occurrences with these co-passengers are what freaks Katya out, but before that, she has problems of her own. She visits the washroom before takeoff, and when Katya opens the door to come out, she sees herself somehow transported to her own childhood home along with her mother, who had died in the plane accident. She soon comes back to present reality, but these visions return to her a few more times, as she first sees herself as a young child sitting and dining with her mother, even though she had passed away some weeks back; she then frightfully sees her mother getting possessed by something, which makes her eyes white just like the old woman’s on the plane. In another instance, she is also transported back to her own home before they boarded the flight, with Diana also there with her. Katya now wonders if they can skip the plan of flying that night altogether (as by now stranger things have started happening on the plane), but she is again brought back to her present. She hears her own daughter shout out at her, saying that she had left her, just like Katya herself had nervously shouted when she could not find her mother during the accident twenty years back. Throughout the whole journey, and also amidst all the strange impossibilities happening onboard, she tries to understand why she is having these visions and what they might mean. From almost the time of takeoff, Katya starts seeing and feeling the existence of a shadowy ghostly figure inside the eerily empty plane. As things turn weirder, she sees more of these slick, shiny black figures and hands lurking out from behind seats and corners, and in one instance, they even pin her down on a seat until she mentally fights them back. Possibly a very literal presentation of her fears inside that she constantly tries to get over, these figures also seem to be connected to the consciousness that keeps taking over everyone else, the one that the old woman, actually a witch (as called by the film), has seemingly unleashed.
Troubles with the co-passengers begin with the old couple, as the lady, Galena, is initially very scared to fly on the plane. Being a doctor, Katya helps her with her own anxiety pills, and then herself takes quite a few of them. Soon after, though, Galena’s husband, Evgeniy, falls sick and passes away before he can be provided any help. When Katya tries to perform CPR on him, Evgeniy seems to get possessed by the white-eyed entity (my own name for it, and not the film’s) and lashes out at her for a moment before dropping dead. Much later on, too, Evgeniy’s dead body, which had been seated in one of the back rows covered with a shroud, seems to do the same thing to Katya. For most of the time, Galena seems very shaken by the entire ordeal, and she also expresses signs of denial as the woman sits beside her dead husband as if nothing had happened to him. Towards the film’s end, though, she goes to the washroom, and when she does not return, even after a long time, Katya and the flight attendants go to check, and see that nobody is there inside the washroom. Just like that, one of the characters disappears into thin air. Nikolay, the capitalist who is used to traveling with business-class amenities, is often angry and disgruntled with the arrangements aboard the plane, and this aspect is also part of his character. After spending some time by himself, he tries to have a conversation with Pavel, but the young man acts very strange and frightened, and does not respond at all. Nikolay wants to see what Pavel has been drawing throughout this time, and he then also shows him pictures of his family; but getting no reply whatsoever, Nikolay believes him to be a druggie (anybody would think so by his actions).
However, Pavel acts scared because he has a special ability that allows him to know the immediate future through what he unmindfully draws in his notebook. He tries to use this power for good by warning Nikolay not to smoke a cigarette inside the cabin, but the businessman, now frustrated by his situation, does not pay heed. A vial of some inflammable liquid had been spilling into the cabinets over the man’s head, and just as he lights his gas lighter, one drop of it spills down and immediately puts him on fire. Within seconds, the whole man is ablaze, and his co-passengers try to help him by putting thick blankets over him. When these covers are removed, Nikolay is found burnt to a crisp, although the man remains alive for some more time. Alexey had occupied a seat beside Katya and Diana, and he made friendly conversation with them. With time, the man grew close to both the daughter and the mother, as he provided help to Katya with all the strangeness going on. Katya tells him of the entity taking up everyone’s bodies, but Alexey claims they are a side-effect of her pills. He reveals that he, too, used to take such pills, as he was a journalist who covered news of wars, and in one instance, he was almost killed by a terrorist bombing. In the end, too, Alexey tries to calm Katya down and convince her that not everything is out of her control. But the man himself starts to bleed from his head for no apparent reason strangely, and then finally falls dead on the floor. The two flight attendants also kept acting strange, especially to Katya’s eyes, as they refused to listen to any of her claims or offers to help. Although their actions, like stern school teachers, seem natural initially, as it is also their duty to avoid any panic on board, their stubbornness when random strangeness starts happening onboard seems out of place. Perhaps they, too, are possessed by that same entity, and Katya is rather sure of it when the attendants announce that they are going to land the plane in Novosibirsk due to bad weather. Novosibirsk was where the first plane had crashed down twenty years ago, and the sheer name of the place frightens Katya and makes her believe something very sinister is in action. Ultimately, it seems like, for the most part, Katya tries to fight her own fears, along with a few sprinkles of supernatural nonsense, but by the end, none of these happenings, and what they might signify, matter at all.
‘Row 19’ Ending Explained: How Had Katya Managed To Survive The Accident?
In the last few minutes of the film’s runtime, the narrative becomes completely about what had actually happened to Katya twenty years ago, and how she had managed to survive the plane crash. As she sees Pavel’s drawings of herself walking towards the cockpit door, she realizes that the door is somehow the way out of this nightmarish experience. Holding Diana beside her, Katya runs through it, and the two enter a similar-looking cabin, with a similar-looking cockpit door at its end. They run through it and land in the same place, as if stuck in a loop. Finally, at one point, the cabin now looks different and new, and Diana goes missing. As Katya sees her daughter, she also spots a ghostly black figure coming out and running towards her. The raspy voice of the old woman, or witch, returns and tells Katya that whatever we have been watching is not the actual reality, but rather a dream of young Katya. In reality, she is still a young six-year-old girl sitting on the crashing plane. It is the witch who is making the plane crash through her spell, and she is also protecting young Katya from the fear of it by putting her to sleep. But, she mentions that Katya is a very special girl as she keeps waking up from sleep. Everything presented after this is from twenty years back, as the passengers on the flight that night looked exactly like the ones at present. Little Katya finds her mother, but the latter soon dies, and she takes a seat on row 19, as if knowing that she needs to be there to survive. The plane crashes, and it breaks and falls apart, except for the very last row, number 19, which remains intact and safe and sound. Young Katya opens her eyes, and the film cuts to black.
The witch’s voice had said that grown-up Katya and her daughter Diana did not actually exist in reality, but they were only a part of 6-year-old Katya’s imagination of her life if she survived the crash. She then says that from now on, her own destiny is in her own hands, and the film’s ending suggests that she survives the crash. Whether Katya actually survives the aftermath, as in, managing to survive all alone inside a forest in Novosibirsk, is not known, as there is really no clear line between what is real and what was the little girl’s imagination. The film’s ending tries to present its ultimate twist in the most surprising manner, but none of it works. There is almost a sense of forcing the narrative for so long only to have such an ending, and overall, “Row 19” is a bad and messy watch.