Elena (5 stars)


A perfectly formed arthouse drama that gradually takes hold and doesn’t let go

Don’t be fooled by Andrey Zvyagintsev’s new film. It might begin in an unassuming manner but this elegantly crafted story soon builds into a powerful contemporary morality tale.

Zvyagintsev previously wowed critics with his award-winning debut The Return and his equally atmospheric film The Banishment. Elena shows just how accomplished this new star of Russian cinema is.

It begins with the protagonist of the title, a woman in her sixties, living in a plush apartment with her wealthy second husband Vladimir. Her grown-up son Sergey from a previous marriage wants Vladimir to help pay a bribe for his son to go to university and avoid military service. Vladimir, however, isn’t so obliging.

Zvyagintsev deftly builds up a scenario which leads Elena to be faced with a decision: how far will she go for her son? Are her ties to him stronger than those to her husband? Add to this a soaring score from none other than Philip Glass and you have a perfectly formed drama that gradually takes hold and doesn’t let go.

Selected release from Fri 16 Nov.

Elena - Trailer


  • 5 stars
  • 2011
  • Russia
  • 1h 49min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Andrei Zvyagintsev
  • Cast: Nadezhda Markina, Andrey Smirnov, Elena Lyadova
  • UK release: 26 October 2012

Elena works as a nurse for an elderly tycoon. In desperate need of money to keep a member of her family out of the military and into to university, she hatches a desperate plan to get money from her patient.