In his new film, Loveless, director Andrey Zvyagintsev continues to spotlight weaknesses of Russian society through nuance and understatement. The result is a shattering depiction of a marriage in its last stages and, in particular, the spillover of its toxicity onto a twelve-year-old boy.
Zhenya (Maryana Spivak) and Boris (Aleksey Rozin) cannot stand the sight of each other. They are simply ticking off the remaining items on their to-do list: finalize their divorce, sell their jointly held apartment, and start new lives with other partners.
For Zhenya, this means Anton (Andris Keishs), a rich businessman who represents success in her eyes. Boris will move in with Masha (Marina Vasilyeva), already heavily pregnant with his child.
Neither of them wants custody of their twelve-year-old son Alyosha (Matvey Novikov). They married because Zhenya found herself pregnant with him, but neither particularly cares for the boy. In a devastating scene, Alyosha overhears his parents planning to send him to boarding school until such time as he can be enrolled in the military. A couple of days later, the boy goes missing.
Zhenya does not even notice her son is gone-she learns of his disappearance when the school contacts her about his absences. The police, who are ill equipped to deal with a search, refer Zhenya and Boris to a volunteer group.
At this point, Loveless takes on the air of a procedural. The volunteer group scours abandoned buildings in the area-one, in a nearby forest, is especially creepy-and methodically checks for traces of Alyosha, to no avail. The volunteer group’s diligence stands in sharp contrast to the apathy of Alyosha’s parents.
The performances in this film are nothing short of heartbreaking. At present these cast members are not well known outside of Russia, but they deserve to be.
Zvyagintsev reunited with co-writer Oleg Negin (Elena, Leviathan) for Loveless. The three films are said to be a trilogy about contemporary Russian life. At the same time, there is a universal component to Zvyagintsev’s themes of futility and isolation. His work may not be for everyone but, for those who grasp him, Zvyagintsev is an essential.
Theme: Missing Persons
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