Loveless

Review by Cian Traynor

Directed by

Andrey Zvyagintsev

Starring

Aleksey Rozin Maryana Spivak Vladimir Vdovichenkov

Anticipation.

Zvyagintsev’s first since Leviathan won the Jury Prize at Cannes.

Enjoyment.

A bleak but captivating vision of a society without empathy.

In Retrospect.

Expertly executed with a message that will echo in your ears.

Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev follows up Leviathan with a bleak but captivating social drama.

There’s a piercing moment at the beginning of Loveless, the fifth feature from Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev, where the end of a marriage quickly unravels in a darkened apartment. As Boris and Zhenya (Aleksey Rozin and Maryana Spivak) bicker over the future of their 12-year-old son Alyosha (Matvey Novikov), a turn of the camera reveals the boy eavesdropping just out of sight – sobbing silently as he discovers that he’s a “mistake” no one wants to be saddled with.

Alyosha is about to fall between the cracks of two diverging lives – just not in the way his parents expect. While the pair are away spending time with their new lovers, their son disappears. It takes a concerned call from his school before they even notice. What follows is not a story where despicable characters find redemption in the face of tragedy. Instead Zvyagintsev offers a brutal indictment of society at large.

The search for Alyosha unfolds across a series of dark, inhospitable locations and through people entirely lacking in empathy. Loveless is set in 2012 – against a backdrop of political turmoil and apocalyptic portent – but its sombre, metallic hues make this feel like a foreboding vision of the future: one where the only thing beneath a surface of consumerism and corruption is self-interest.

In less capable hands, this could all feel clumsy or sneeringly cynical. The pacing, cinematography and performances, however, coalesce into something magnetic. There may not be a single likeable character but Zvyagintsev pans out just enough to conjure a sense of inherited malaise. (Zhenya’s own mother, a bitter recluse, tells her that she was a mistake too.) As the story skips forward in time, history begins to repeat itself – another unwanted child, another empty relationship – masterfully rounding out a parable of disconnection in a hyper-connected world.

Published 7 Feb 2018

Tags: Andrey Zvyagintsev

Anticipation.

Zvyagintsev’s first since Leviathan won the Jury Prize at Cannes.

Enjoyment.

A bleak but captivating vision of a society without empathy.

In Retrospect.

Expertly executed with a message that will echo in your ears.

Read More

What does it mean to come of age in Putin’s Russia?

By Laura Davis

Something Better to Come provides a vital window into the lives of Putin’s abandoned children.

Leviathan

By David Jenkins

One of the year’s most extraordinary films is an experimental documentary about North Sea fishing.

review LWLies Recommends

How Jacques Audiard put marginalised people in the frame

By Matthew Anderson

The French director of A Prophet and Dheepan is drawn to stories of human resistance and struggle.

What are you looking for?

Little White Lies Logo

About Little White Lies

Little White Lies was established in 2005 as a bi-monthly print magazine committed to championing great movies and the talented people who make them. Combining cutting-edge design, illustration and journalism, we’ve been described as being “at the vanguard of the independent publishing movement.” Our reviews feature a unique tripartite ranking system that captures the different aspects of the movie-going experience. We believe in Truth & Movies.

Editorial

Design