This Wednesday’s film will keep you gripped until it’s surprising conclusion


Filmed in the perpetual gloom of a snowy Russian autumn, Andrey Zvyagintsev’s latest movie paints a sombre, melancholy picture of a self-centred and supremely unsympathetic couple in the midst of an acrimonious breakup, oblivious to the mental cruelty they are inflicting on their 12 year old son. When the boy runs away, unable to bear listening to one more row, the couple barely notice.

Aleksey Rozin and Maryana Spivak are both excellent as the unlikeable couple, using their son’s absence as a stick to beat each other with, rather than (as Hollywood might have led us to expect) a device to allow them to bond. The world around them doesn’t seemed to care very much either. As an indifferent police force pass the baton of inquiry onto volunteers, we wait and wait, with increasing tension, for something to happen. Zvyagintsev lingers over the boy’s school, playground, forest, his ruined hideout, taking his time over this compelling story, all the while reminding us that life goes implacably on regardless.

Whether the film is (as many have claimed) an allegory of the troubles in the Ukraine, or simply a grim tale of the unlovable failing to love, the raw authenticity of the performances will assuredly keep you gripped until the film’s surprising, frustrating, yet entirely appropriate conclusion.

By David Vass