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Loveless ★★★★

ABR Arts 23 April 2018

Loveless ★★★★

ABR Arts 23 April 2018

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.

Comment (1)

  • Anwen Crawford gives this superb and uplifting Russian film four stars, then proceeds to misunderstand it, using words like ‘cold’ and ‘despairing’. It is true that the film’s premise, a missing child, is harrowing, and the outcome overwhelmingly tragic. Her implied judgement that the parents more or less had it coming to them, given their selfish obsession with new partners, is also understandable, but it has led her to miss the most important dimensions of the film. The 'futile’ (her word) generosity of the group of volunteer searchers - ordinary citizens with no incentive other than their instinctive obligation to society - who spend freezing nights in frightening and sordid places trying to find an unknown boy whose own parents hardly cared about him, is, on the contrary, a miracle not only of dogged heroism, but of a sense of the collective which has profound roots in Russian spirituality.
    No, the boy's life was not saved; but it is a double tragedy when a critic is blinded to a film’s rugged humanitarianism because she sees only a lack of 'civic accountability'.
    Posted by Judith Armstrong
    26 April 2018

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