Stars: 4.0 out of 5
Starring Maryana Spivak, Aleksey Rozin, Matvey Novikov, Marina Vasilyeva, and Andris Keišs
Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev
Written by Andrey Zvyagintsev and Oleg Negin
Rating: not yet available, film contains coarse language, violence, upsetting images, nudity and sexual situations
Runtime: 127 minutes
Playing Friday through Wednesday at Metro Cinema, 8712 109 St. in Edmonton
Tickets are $13 (regular price), $10 (students/seniors) or $8 (children). They can be
purchased at the door or through the theatre’s website. More details can be found at www.metrocinema.org.
Not every couple should get married and have children. There. I said it. We all know it to be true. It’s just as horrible to bear witness to in the theatre as it is in real life.
Loveless, the newest film by Andrey Zvyagintsev, might indeed be a piece of fiction but the bleak and stark indictment of modern relationships that leave children in the lurch rings just as true as if you were witnessing it on the street. Warning: do not make this a first date film.
Zhenya and Boris (Maryana Spivak and Aleksey Rozin) are in the middle of a bitter divorce. Put the two of them together in a room and harsh words will soon fly, along with the occasional angry fist. Zhenya is obsessed with her cellphone and her new boyfriend, the older, wealthier type. For his part, Boris is far more interested in his younger, already pregnant girlfriend. We get the sense that he was unfaithful first as her belly is north of eight months already. He’s worried about his job since his fundamentalist boss disapproves of divorce.
It should be noted that the literal translation of the film’s original Russian title is more akin to mean ‘dislike’.
Neither of them seems at all concerned about their 12-year-old son, Alyosha (Matvey Novikov). We start the movie watching him get out of school and taking as long as possible to get home. Once there, we soon discover why he lingered in the woods: if he isn’t faced with outright verbal and emotional abuse then he’s completely and utterly disregarded. His parents are selfish creatures and barely know anything about him or his friends.
The couple’s main issue of contention is that each would rather the other take custody of the child. They are not what decent folks would call sympathetic characters. It’s when each of the couple is off with their respective flings that Alyosha goes missing, though neither of them notices for two days. It only comes to their attention when the school rings them up to ask about his absences. Naturally, they still go through the motions of involving the police and volunteer searchers to comb the neighbourhood and the woods where he liked to wander.
Loveless in its miserable splendour took the Jury Prize at Cannes and Best Foreign Film at France’s César Awards. Part of the brilliance of Zvyagintsev’s films is in the score (by Evgueni and Sacha Galperine) and in Mikhail Krichman’s cinematography, how he lets the camera pore over decayed Russian architecture and then contrast it with vibrant natural areas. His lens remains as disaffected with the beauty and the death of the scenery just as it does with his matter-of-fact style that telegraphs this dysfunctional family’s very worst moments. If your heart doesn’t break for Alyosha nor does your blood boil for the two who created him, make sure to use prophylaxis in your own life, please.
Loveless is about abandonment and selfishness. It’s about a child who runs away from the pain out of the instinct of self-preservation. It’s about two people who don’t seem to suffer the consequences of their misguided actions, though we scream at the screen hoping that these characters at least get our lashes. Is this fiction? Barely. It might make for a welcome addition as part of junior high Career and Life Management classes.