Loveless Movie Review By FINE
Loveless portrays a loveless world, but there's a lot to love about it.
No one wants to dwell in a life without love, the innocent and budding twelve-year-old boy Aloysha certainly didn't, and that is why he has run off, to escape a family life of turmoil and denial, where it is clear he is unwelcome. An ordinary director would have taken the premise of a missing child and been quick to cast a vigorous and valorous Liam Neeson type, you know, the kind with a particular set of skills. However, Andrey Zvyagintsev(Leviathan) is no ordinary director, as he trades bullets for ethics in his craft of a stunningly bleak allegory of his homeland. Which is, of course, the industrial and war driven Russia, that's ambiguous themes of abandonment could have only been inspired by the Italian virtuoso Michelangelo Antonioni. Whether or not the characters here deserve what they get, their complacency, selfishness, and passivity set them up for the fall. And fall they do, yet you can't help but feel their dejection as moral justice. After all, they make Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood from Devito's 1996 'Matilda' look like a heroic and devout pair of Neeson's.
There have been countless brilliant and defiant triumphs that are considered all-time greats that were panned in their country due to their obtrusive critique of a disoriented climate. 'Battleship Potemkin' was banned in all Soviet countries for its "rabble-rousing power"(Roger Ebert) that basked in propaganda and bravery. La Regle De Jeu(Rules of the Game) was accompanied by a furious French crowd who attempted to burn down the theater mid-screening. As we know, the French aren't exactly fond of rules, the French Revolution may refresh your memory. And now, Zvyagintsev's 'Loveless' joins the modernist yet timeless tradition of forward-thinking criticism that candidly shows it's characters as a product of their countries malfeasance. And although 'Loveless' doesn't sport the powerful punch of Sergi Eisenstein or the sleek insights on humanity of Jean Renoir, this is definitely one to catch, although I never said it would be an easy viewing.
This drama opens with a haunting and poetic shot of a desolate forest, as the snow drifts down, connecting with the river, symbolizing a plausible death to come. As the story itself ensues, the audience gets not only a sense of its mystic surroundings but a family torn by conceit. Both the father and mother are unwilling to admit their mistakes, except for one "mistake", their twelve-year-old boy played exceptionally by Matvey Novikov. The father, Boris, claims to be a Christian, yet his entitled upper-class cynicism, acts of adultery, and blatant lack of care for his child says otherwise. The mother, Zhenya, is in no way batter. She is equally irresponsible, equally guilty(she too is in an affair), and wholly lost into a fake world of selfies and social media mirroring the obsession seen with Boris and his job. When overhearing one of the parents many fights, Aloysha departs the families "comfortable" apartment, since it is made clear the couple wished to get rid of him stating "we should have had an abortion". Following a long absence, the couple attempts to find their son and themselves amidst the unforgiving Russian climate.
Zvyagintsev's most captivating and ironically lively scenes(if you can call them that) come in the form of the subtle and meaningful use of the camera, and what such a shot implies. The decidedly long takes are an obvious sight to behold, yet it's scenes like the final shot that are breathtaking. Or take the metaphorical shots of characters pondering through windows or the birds flying by the industrial plant in the background. Or more noticeably in scenes where we see woman confined to their 4 by 7 screens on the subway or at a lavish dinner, contrasting tracking shots of Boris confidently making the rounds at work as he is sucked into his life there rather than the one he lives outside of work hours. The timeliness here I found to be outright unnerving, as the director infers a fulmination against his country and the world as it is today, as the only thing these characters care about besides themselves is if the "world is really ending". Its a comedy of manners literary and one that is in no way funny or fun.
The film is slow and hard to be mesmerized by, and it overstays its welcome and its ideas. But in it' defiant three-act structure, lack of a protagonist, and political ideas, you can't help but admire it. In doing so, it manages to not lose itself amidst ambiguity and stay true to it's humane and heartbreaking journey for love. The audience thankfully finds the answer but the couple does not. "Lovelessness, you can't live in that state", and that is why the setting is so lifeless. Then again it's Zzyagintsev's ideas are what will help this movie surpass fellow genre films. As it can all be seen as one grand and intellectual metaphor. If the child represents the neglected everyday Russian's and their free-spiritedness and the mother stands for the single-minded Mother Russia, then 'Loveless' is one unlovely selfie