Loveless — A Strong Russian Movie

Filed in Film by on February 16, 2018 0 Comments

One of the most memorable images in Loveless, an evocative Russian film by Andrey Zvyagintsev opening in Canada on February 23, summarizes its relentlessly bleak mood. In the opening frame, the camera lingers pensively on a big tree whose branches have been shorn of their leaves by lashing autumn winds and rain. It’s a stark and haunting image that permeates Russia’s Oscar nominee for best foreign picture.

Set in St. Petersburg under dull cloudy skies, this contemporary drama unfolds against the backdrop of bitter marital strife. Zhenya (Maryana Spivak) and her estranged husband, Boris (Alexey Rozin), still live together despite the collapse of their marriage. They’ve found new lovers and are on the cusp of a divorce. In the meantime, they’re trying to sell their modest flat, which overlooks a wooded ravine bisected by a stream.

Maryana Spivak plays an unhappily married wife

Neither Zhenya nor Boris seem interested in assuming custody of their 12-year-old son, Alexey (Matvey Novikov), a meek and quiet boy whose routine is to walk home from his school through the ravine. As his parents bicker yet again, Alexey crouches in a dark room and sheds tears of anguish, knowing that neither parent is thinking of his welfare or future. Zhenya is wrapped up in herself. Boris is concerned that a marital breakup may jeopardize his job. His boss, a Christian fundamentalist, is a prude who disapproves of divorce.

At this juncture, the movie segues to Boris’ relationship with his blonde girlfriend, Masha (Mariana Vasilyeva), who’s in her last months of pregnancy. Masha, a needy person, fears that Boris may abandon her once she gives birth. He assures Masha that he loves her.

These exchanges are followed by pillow talk scenes between Zhenya and her considerably older  boyfriend, Anton (Andris Keishs), a man of means, judging by his fancy townhouse, modern furnishings and expensive German sedan. Confiding in him, Zhenya says she never loved Boris and only married him because she was pregnant with his child. In a sad confession, she says their union was defined by “lovelessness” and an absence of happiness.

Matvey Novikov portrays an insecure son

The film gathers momentum as Alexey goes missing and his parents call the police. As the cops and a citizen’s group launch a search for Alexey, Zhenya, accompanied by Boris, visits her crotchety mother in Moscow, hoping that Alexey may have gone there. The barbs they trade are indicate of their poor relationship. Driving back from Moscow, Zhenya lashes out at Boris. After accusing him of ruining her life, she says she never loved him and expresses happiness she met Anton.

Back in St.Petersburg, the search for Alexey continues. Searchers comb the ravine, two abandoned buildings and apartment stairwells in a bid to find the lost boy. This all takes place against the backdrop of biased newscasts about the continuing civil war in Ukraine.

In short, Loveless is an affecting film with a strong cast that rarely loses its edge.








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