A neglected child goes missing, forcing his separated parents to come together and search for him. Andrey Zvyagintsev’s new film is every bit as devastating and critical of modern Russia (and modern life) as his previous film, Leviathan. Alexey is failed by nearly everything that should be keeping him safe. Alexey’s parents are utterly self-obsessed and completely detached from their obligations as parents. Their interactions with each other are vicious and deeply hurtful. The early scenes in which Alexey is abused or totally overlooked by his parents are heartbreaking.
The film also serves as a fascinating insight into (and criticism of) the Russian missing person’s process. The police are unable to assist the family when they are initially called. They instead refer the case to a search and rescue team made up of volunteers. The volunteers then drive the search for the boy, demonstrating relentless energy and absolute thoroughness in their pursuit of the boy. Countless excursions are portrayed as the huge group of volunteers sweeps the forest, calling Alexey’s name (which we never see his parents do). Their competence and dedication is a beacon of light in a morose film. I’m fascinated to learn if such a group really exists.
The performances are extraordinary throughout the cast. Maryana Spivak is terrifying as Alexey’s mother and yet her cruelty is never inexplicable, instead always motivated by an upsettingly relatable self-absorption. Aleksey Rozin portrays Alexey’s ineffectual father who seems to go through the motions and is guided solely by the expectations of others.
The film also offers an insight into modern corporate life in Russia, as single men struggle to find promotions. Horror stories are shared of divorced workers suddenly finding themselves invisible in the workplace. These pressures drive men to form the nuclear family, but whilst you can lead a man to a family, you can’t make him care.
Various sexual encounters are portrayed in the film, all depicted at a distance and contrasted with later scenes of coldness between the participants. In this film the warmth of affection quickly dissipates because there is no Love to fuel it.
Loveless is a beautifully shot film with excellent cinematography from Mikhail Krichman. Krichman and Zvyagintsev find the hauntingly quiet places to capture the isolation of modern life. From the pristine architecture of high concept architecture to the dilapidated relics of the past. The eeriness of these shots and the languid pacing of the film creates a dreamlike effect.
Zvyagintsev offers an upsetting yet urgent vision of life out of balance. The film is a bold cry for compassion for the young and a terrifying warning of the cost of our disaffection.
4 / 5