Directed by: Andrey Zvyagintsev
Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev has become one of the most sought-after storytellers of our time, and his acclaimed works are usually significant and pungent. Following the masterpieces “The Return”, “Elena”, and “Leviathan”, the prodigious filmmaker turns his stinging criticism to Putin’s unruly Russia and a virulent household, in a cold-hearted missing-child drama. Thus, the title “Loveless” fits hand-in-glove with the material addressed.
This aching absence of love can be sensed at many levels and goes through many layers. The camera captures the ways of a middle-class couple, Boris (Aleksey Rozin) and Zhenya (Maryana Spivak), who is about to divorce. They have a 12-year-old son, Alexey (Matvey Novikov), who is often left on his own, neglected, and without any supervision. Hurt with the embarrassing atmosphere lived at home and on the verge of being sent to a boarding school, the unhappy Alexey is clearly a nuisance for his parents, who are both having affairs with new partners. Boris is inclusively expecting another child from his insecure and often inconvenient girlfriend, Masha (Marina Vasileva).
One day, Alexey didn't return home from school. Despite missing for nearly two days, his father remains too busy working, while the mother keeps enjoying time in the company of a new bourgeois, Anton (Andris Keiss). A police investigation is launched, not without the expected bureaucracy, and the doubts fall into three different possibilities: murder, kidnap, or just a runaway teenager?
Religion appears as another sharp observation about modern Russia. Boris could only be able to work for an ultra-orthodox company because he was married, but now with the divorce, his position is at stake. Nothing he couldn't fake, says a workmate. With Zhenya, who was always unloved by her irascible mother, the things were completely different. She got married out of love to escape the hell she was living at home.
The movie immerses you in its web of ambiguity, and yet, all the mystery created around the story is almost totally suffocated by the negligence, cruelty, and selfishness of the adult characters. There’s so much pain, regret, and bitterness in this tale that one can’t help being dragged into a miserable emotional state.
Wintry and autumnal woody landscape, fantastically captured by the lens of cinematographer Mikhail Krichman, infuse an extra sense of abandonment in a story that, little by little, starts to mess with your head and emotions. Zvyagintsev is a true master of these techniques, and he does it with a clear vision, sharp intention, and cultivated proficiency.
Deservedly nominated for the best foreign picture by the Academy, “Loveless” left me completely parched and infuriated in the end. Darkness will live forever in the chest of this mother and father, who choose to live their lives as if they were victims instead of responsible parents. It’s frustratingly unbearable, for the film’s sake.
The filming process occurred in Moscow and was completed with international financial support after “Leviathan” has been disapproved in 2014 by the Russian authorities. Nothing new regarding censorship; just like it's not a novelty the ability of Zvyagintsev making outstanding films.