Loveless – Film Review by Cristina Florescu
Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev
Writers: Oleg Negin, Andrey Zvyagintsev
Stars: Maryana Spivak, Aleksey Rozin, Matvey Novikov
Loveless is an Academy Award nominated drama by acclaimed director Andrey Zvyagintsev, focusing on the troubled relationship between Boris (Aleksey Rozin) and Zhenya (Maryana Spivak) as they’re in the middle of getting a divorce and discussing the future of their son, Alexey (Matvey Novikov). The premise of the film reminds me of the Leo Tolstoy quote: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”. From the start, the viewer is confronted with their unhappiness. Failed family relationships are a motif throughout the film, as Boris’s and Zhenya’s interaction with secondary characters reveals their own personal difficulties.
The film starts with Zhenya and Boris arguing over what would happen to their son, with both of them passing responsibility to each other and being concerned more about their own well being. This unlikely situation sets the tone for the unhappiness and lovelessness that characterises their relationship with each other and with Alexey. As the film progresses and Alexey goes missing, the circumstances of their relationship become clearer: they never loved each other and only got married because of the pressure of a society where having a family seems to be a priority, even at the cost of personal happiness.
Given these characteristics, Loveless is not your usual, predictable film about two parents that come together through the tragedy of their missing child. It is a deeply grim look into the menial and meaningless lives of two people who are faced with their tragic mistakes and their darkest thoughts through a dramatic, irreversible event.
Zvyangintsev directs the film in an exquisite way. The beginning is ominous; the setting of each scene is quiet and tense, the delivery of dialogue is monotonous and every situation the characters are in is just a menial, every day situation that skilfully highlights the mediocrity of their lives, but also gives a valuable glimpse into their character. Despite the central event of the film being Alexey’s disappearance, the film hardly focuses on Alexey at all. His parents are hardly seen interacting with him, and the little screen time they share emphasise the environment he lives in and the distant relationship he has with his parents.
All in all, Loveless is a film about family life, personal mistakes and dramatic events. If you’re looking for a dynamic, dramatic film, keep looking. Loveless has that independent/foreign film characteristic of observing people in their day to day lives at a slow pace. So if you are instead looking for intelligent representation of real life and real, multi-dimensional humans then this is the film for you.