A middle aged Russian couple Zhenya (Maryana Spivak), and Boris (Aleksey Rozin) in the midst of an ugly divorce is completely oblivious to the effect their cruel toxic fights are having on their 12-year-old son Alyosha (Matvey Novikov). They both work and each have moved on to other more blissful relationships as they can’t stand to be around each other. But as we later learn, they have chosen more strategically beneficial relationships with people that will in some way increase or maintain their class status in society.

The performances are as surgically precise as the subject is devastating and we get no redeeming characters. The husband Boris has chosen a much younger fiancé with whom he had an affair and who is now pregnant with his child. He is worried that the company he works for will find out that he is divorcing as they only hire married men. The wife Zhenya, looking out for her future comfort is now with an older and much wealthier man than her husband.

Unknown to them while neglecting their own son’s needs, Alyosha has decided to run away and his absence goes unnoticed for days. The rest of the film focuses on the two parents as they reluctantly come together to enlist the services of state departments in search for their missing boy.
Loveless turns into a kind of procedural as we are introduces to various government agencies and search parties are deployed in a number of desolate wintery landscapes and abandoned buildings. The parents become increasingly distraught and we discover more details about their past relationship as the search drags on with no results.

This evocative tragic drama by acclaimed Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev – Leviathan (2014) is like looking through a dark icy crystal. The people in it are as bleak and dour as the silent barren landscape that the camera lingers over. Visually stunning, Loveless has a distinct austere beauty reflective of the soulless, morally corrupt characters in it. 

The connection between the harsh humanist subject matter and the grim landscape is tangible. Taking place in a suburb of Moscow, it seems class divisions have created a population motivated only by achieving quick and easy self-satisfaction while ignoring more compassionate parental responsibilities.

The visual design is stunningly arresting and darkly desolate as we progress from modern antiseptic interiors to frozen lifeless exteriors, and increasingly more hostile environments leaving us emotionally cold to the stern reality of the film. It’s a somber and brutally honest drama that focuses its shocking story on the darker part of human nature and parental relationships with a visual bravura and stark beauty that will leave you with a cold admiration.

Andrey Zvyagintsev is an important new voice in Russian cinema and a gifted auteur who has been revealing contemporary problems of modern middle and lower class Russians since his first acclaimed film The Return (2003). 

Loveless is Russia’s Oscar entry and now with its Best Foreign film nomination is a strong contender at the 2018 Academy Awards airing on March 4, 2018.


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