Parents love their children. It's one of the most fundamental and universal forces in the world.
But not in this film. Zhenya openly regrets not having aborted her son, who is now 12 years old, and her husband Boris agrees that an abortion would have been better for everyone. This unhappy family is finally falling apart: Zhenya and Boris are getting a divorce and are considering a boarding school for their son. Both hope to find happiness with new partners, and clearly they don't want the boy to interfere.
This situation takes an unexpected twist when the son doesn't turn up at home after school. Reluctantly, the parents inform the police about the missing child. A volunteer corps starts a search of the neighbourhood. Even after the boy's computer is inspected, his best friend has revealed their secret hideaway, and his grandmother has been visited for possible clues, the boy is not found.
The search for the boy puts Boris and Zhenya in a ambivalent situation: they are supposed to be heartbroken, but in reality they consider the disappearance of their son as a rather fortunate event. On their minds are their respective new partners, more than the whereabouts of the boy.
Just leave it to director Andrey Zvyagintsev to turn this situation into an excellent, but pitch black drama without even the least shimmer of hope. The hate between Boris and Zhenya is extremely intense, and the rest of the cast doesn't show much human warmth either. On countless occasions, the characters check the screen of their smartphone. When nobody exchanges a smile or a kind word, digital friendships are better than nothing. The last scenes are the most desperate: even with their new partners, Boris and Zhenya don't seem to find any happiness.
Surprisingly, Zvyangintsev doesn't use any urban decay or Russian dreariness to accentuate the general negativism. On the contrary, Moscow looks modern and many scenes could just as well have been set in an American or European city.
Apart from the drama of a family falling apart, the film has something to say about Russia. There are news flashes about the war with Ukraine, and a police officer complains about not having enough resources to fight all the crime that's going on. The ultimate metaphorical statement is in the very last scene: Zhenya is running on a treadmill, wearing a training jacket with 'Russia' on it - not even in Cyrillic letters. The message: Russia is wasting its energy and not making any progress.
Still living under the same roof, the Moscow couple of Boris and Zhenya is in the terrible final stages of a bitter divorce. Under those circumstances, as both have already found new partners, the insults pour down like rain in this toxic familial battle zone, always pivoting around the irresolvable and urgent matter of Alyosha's custody, their 12-year-old only son. Unheard, unloved, and above all, unwanted, the introverted and unhappy boy feels that he is an intolerable burden, however, what his parents don't know is that he can hear every single word. As a result, when Boris and Zhenya finally realize that Alyosha has been missing for nearly two days, it is already too late. But is this a simple case of a runaway teenager?
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March 05, 2018 at 01:23 AM