Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Loveless is a cold, despairing film, befitting its title. It opens and closes in the depths of winter, with wide, lingering shots of an ice-bound river; in between, it delivers a portrait of a marriage that has hardened into estrangement, with a child lost to the void that exists between his parents. No character is improved by their trials, much less redeemed. No thaw ever comes.
In an outer district of contemporary Moscow, where unwelcoming streets are lined with identical-seeming apartment blocks, Zhenya (Maryana Spivak) and Boris (Aleksey Rozin) are preparing to divorce. Their marriage was hastily made, in consequence of Zhenya’s unplanned pregnancy, and now, twelve years later, all that remains of their youthful ardour is an anxious, lonely son, Alyosha (Matvey Novikov), whom neither wants to be burdened with. Perhaps they will send him to boarding school, and from there he can go into the army. An early, heated argument between the ex-partners about their child’s future culminates in a wrenching shot of the boy himself, hidden behind the kitchen door, silently devastated by what he has overheard.