Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev
Starring Maryana Spivak, Yanina Hope, Aleksey Rozin, Matvey Novikov, Andris Keiss and Vladimir Vdovichenkov
In UK Cinemas February 9th, 2018

by Gemsy

Loveless opens to 12-year-old Alyosha, the main focus of the film, walking home from school on a bitter winter’s day, across a barren woodland, completely alone. Sadly, this is the best it gets for the poor little bugger for the whole film.

Alyosha’s parents, Zenhya and Boris, are going through divorce. Not a nice one. Both have moved on to seemingly loving new relationships and both are, shall we say, very active in these relationships. Frankly, these guys are at it like rabbits with their new partners and it says something for their impassioned hatred for each other that they find the energy to throw venomous insults to-and-fro when they happen to occupy their still co-owned flat at the same time.

During a particularly vicious exchange, it becomes clear that Alyosha is completely unloved, with both parents fighting to avoid custody after the divorce. Unfortunately, one of those to whom this becomes clear is Alyosha himself, who overhears everything due to the ear-splitting volume of the argument in their small flat.

Long story short: Alyosha goes missing and his parents are forced to work together in the nightmarish situation of a missing child.

Director Andrei Zvyagintsev resolves very little for his audience in this bleak and brilliantly put together film. Rather than opting for the satisfying Hollywood outcome of enemies putting aside differences in a crisis, the rift between Zehnya and Boris is amplified. Every opportunity to attack the other is seized without joy. Rather, it comes from longstanding resentment and a need to share pain.

Loveless is a dark thriller that is neither sympathetic to its protagonists nor to Russia itself. Its investigation finds the need for survival, both on a personal and societal level, overrides the desire to intervene to improve the wellbeing of others. To quietly observe suffering with detachment. While there is evidence throughout that the broken nature of these characters can, in part, be attributed to pasts of neglect, no atonement is achieved and redemption remains unoffered.

It’s brutal and stark and bitter and a challenging watch, but thoroughly worth it for the flawless performances from both Alexey Rozin and Maryana Spivak, and for a suspense-laden, chilling ride. For this tale of love, ‘less’ is definitely more.


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