Loveless (4 stars)

Loveless

Cannes 2017: A child goes missing as a relationship crumbles in Andrey Zvyagintsev's chilling drama

Andrey Zvyagintsev has an unforgiving view of modern Russia, dissecting failings and vices with a surgeon's precision. Loveless may operate on a smaller scale than his last film Leviathan but it resonates with a similar sense of despair about the state of the nation.

Partly inspired by Ingmar Bergman's Scenes from a Marriage, Loveless captures the dying gasps of a toxic relationship in which a couple can no longer stand the sight of each other. Zhenya (Maryana Spivak) has already moved on and traded up for a wealthy, older man. Boris (Alexei Rozin) has a heavily pregnant girlfriend who cannot wait for him to become a free man. The mood between them has only two settings – icy contempt and blazing anger.

Their 12-year-old son Alyosha (Matvey Novikov) is a casualty of their war. Mother and father have other fish to fry so Alyosha is little more than an inconvenience. Boarding school and military academy will keep him well out of their lives. Everything changes when Alyosha goes missing. Initially neither parent even notices but as a manhunt unfolds, they have, at least, a fleeting chance to consider how they have behaved.

Filmed in and around St Petersburg in the bleak mid-winter, there is a grey chill that seeps into the very bones of Loveless. The human characters are equally devoid of warmth. We think Zhenya is heartless and self-centred until the scene in which we meet her mother. The hunt for Alyosha propels the story but what matters is what it reveals of a country where people are so preoccupied with their own selfish desires that everyone else is surplus to requirements. It is a point that Zvyagintsev repeatedly hammers home with the intensity of someone trying to knock sense into a doomed world.

Screening as part of the Cannes Film Festival 2017. General release TBC.

Loveless

  • 4 stars
  • 2017
  • Russia
  • 127 min
  • Directed by: Andrey Zvyagintsev
  • Cast: Maryana Spivak, Alexei Rozin, Matvey Novikov

Zhenya (Spivak) and Borisi (Rozin) can no longer stand the sight of each other, but then their 12-year-old son goes missing; even then it takes a while before they notice. Despairing portrait of modern Russia, in which people are so preoccupied with their own desires that everyone else is irrelevant.

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