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The Vital Needs of the Dead is a tender coming-of-age story set in the provinces of the Soviet Union during the second half of the 20th century. At the center of this story, praised by Russian critics for its blend of realism and lyrical sensibility, lies the relationship of young Gosha Sidelnikov with his alluring and mysterious grandmother Rosa, who becomes his caregiver when he is virtually abandoned by his busy and distant parents. This relationship colors Sidelnikov's subsequent forays into first love and sexual awakening. Even after her death, memories of Rosa accompany him into his adventures and misadventures as a provincial student. Then, one miserably cold winter night, her voice commands him to immediately depart for a place he's never been before, precipitating a mysterious chain of events.