STARRING: MARYANA SPIVAK; ALEKSEY ROZIN; MATVEY NOVIKOV
DIRECTED BY: ANDREY ZVYAGINTSEV
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 3 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
It is important to be loved. From the time we are born to the time we die, love is something that shapes us. The central focus of Andrey Zvyagntsev's Loveless is a Russian family of three; mother, father, and son, and if they had a bit more love maybe we could save them from all the pain. This story is a tragedy, a dark snapshot of how toxic a family can be when love fails to flow at all. Zhenya (Maryana Spivak) and Boris (Aleksey Rozin) are in the process of a divorce and the collateral damage is young Alyosha (Matvey Novikov), who much like his parents relationship, is receiving no love at all. It is a continuing cycle, where parents fail to love their child because their parents before failed to love them and what remains is a painful result because of it. Loveless is a dark and difficult film, highlighting how pain is inflicted on the innocent. Love is a necessary need for survival.
The opening scene is with Zhenya and Boris arguing at the kitchen table, while 10-year old Alyosha sits by, waiting for breakfast and for his parents to conclude the war before going to school. Writers Oleg Negin and Zvyagintsev do a brilliant job of making the argument real while having a lot of bite in the words. This is a nasty fight. The boy is sitting idly by, but he may as well be invisible. There is no want for responsibility for either parent. They hate one another and are currently involved with other people, making it quite obvious that providing for the child, in any manner, is something that neither want to do. The argument goes from a painful debate about their divorce to a game of hot potato for who would take responsibility for young Alyosha. And shockingly, neither parent steps up. Alyosha is left alone to fend for himself.
I recently became a father and as a parent to a child that I care for deeply, Loveless is a film that shook me to my core. It was nominated for an Oscar in the foreign language category and deservingly so, if anything, simply for its taut, narrative accuracy at being a tense drama. The title is the absence of love because this is a family, individuals who have never been loved. And if the family dysfunction is not enough, the film takes an even darker turn when Alyosha goes missing, never returning from school. While Zhenya and Boris were off with their separate lovers, their son disappears, and the film turns into a families search for a boy that they never seemed to care about in the first place.
Interjected between the family search, we see Zhenya making love to her new boyfriend, and we can tell she is cold inside. She is never truly able to fill the void that was created in her heart long ago. Did her family abuse her? Was she burned by men in the past? And the same goes for Boris. He is repeating his past mistakes, as his girlfriend is currently pregnant with his second child, and now that Alyosha cannot be found, doubt begins to seep into their minds of maybe they would be better off not bringing another victim into their selfish world.
Loveless is a fairly straight forward story that resembles the ugliness of marriage in a film such as Kramer vs. Kramer and the search for a lost loved one, similar to David Fincher's Gone Girl. It is mainly a cautionary tale, that repeats itself a bit too much, but not without purpose. This is a reminder of the responsibility that comes with being a parent and spouse. It reminds us that it is always important to share with others the love that we have. To live without love is to not live at all. Loveless is a movie that proves exactly that.
3 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady