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REVIEW — “Loveless”

I know ya’ll love Russian Cinema

Loveless is a Russian film written by Oleg Negin and Andrey Zvyagintsev, directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev and stars Maryana Spivak, Aleksey Rozin, Matvey Novikov, Marina Vasilyeva, and Andris Keišs. It tells the story of two separated parents living apart whose affections are long forgotten and whose relationship has become loveless. They are temporarily brought together after their only young child becomes a missing person and they attempt to find him. Now, I’m not going to pretend Loveless is on any of your radars. You may recognize the title, as it was nominated for Best Foreign Langauge Film this past year, and it made it’s rounds the festivals, but I doubt most people are excited for this, and that’s a shame. Loveless is a challenging, long, and intense experience with more questions than answers, but, if the audience is willing to give it a chance, there is a lot to love here. While it may not be the most exciting movie you’ll see, it’s worth your time.

Andrey Zvyagintsev is directing here and he clearly knows what he’s doing. He demonstrates an incredible amount of restraint here and has a very interesting way of revealing information to the audience. He is very aware of audience expectations and subverts and misdirects at every chance he gets. He is the definition of “show don’t tell” filmmaking. He has an incredible amount of skill and is a director to watch. While I wasn’t blown away by this like others are, he has peaked my interest. While he is very skilled, I can easily see anyone calling this boring. It is very quiet, moody, and slow and I wouldn’t blame anyone for dozing off or tuning out. I’m not sure if I’ll check out his previous work, but he does show a lot of promise. His script with Maryana Spivak is also very good. While not the most satisfying, everything seems so deliberate and exact, that while there is a clear lack of dialogue and action, it all works. Loveless is a very exact film. It achieves everything it seeks out to do, and it’s very hard to point out flaws if any.

The acting in Loveless is, for lack of a better word, awesome. Every character feels very real and lived in. The two leads are very good and are able to convey a lot of very intense and complex emotion wonderfully. Although they were not speaking my native language, they never for a second seemed unconvincing or false. The child actor, while brief, did a great job. His performance was good for any actor, not just for a child. Many of the side characters are great and given an amazing chance to shine in their respective scenes. Zhenya mother is very funny and a great bit of comedy, albeit dark and almost depressing comedy, as well as great character development for Zhenya. The leader of the search team was very great and I wanted to genuinely see more of him. Everyone here is great, and that is just a testament to Zvyagintsev’s direction.

On a technical level, Loveless is kind of a masterpiece. The main attraction here is the cinematography, which is to die for. The Russian landscape is beautiful, brutal, dark and ominous. The soundtrack is crisp and moody, and the sound design is cold and rough. Loveless is not a warm movie what so ever. It is dark, depressing, and just a downer. I can’t recommend this to most people, but if you think you have the stomach for it, definitely check it out. Loveless is not for everyone, but it’s near perfect execution and masterful filmmaking make it something to see. 4/5

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