Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev’s (THE RETURN, LEVIATHAN) latest film of a boy gone missing, is one that appears simple on the surface but is in reality an extremely powerful (with strong political overtones) film on the tragedy that emerges from the result of lovelessness. A divorcing couple’s son goes missing after all their shit. LOVELESS is an analysis of the couple’s shit intercut with the detailed process with the police and volunteer group involved with the exhaustive search process.
Films about a couple’s breaking up have been surfacing quite frequent lately, the most recent two being AFTER LOVE (L’ECONOMIE DU COUPLE) a French film that has still no release in Toronto and the upcoming Emma Thompson film THE CHILDREN ACT about a high court judge’s foundering marriage. Though expected to be a difficult watch, these films (LOVELESS included) have astonished with what else can be drawn in with the subject.
Zvyagintsev’s tale unfolds in the midst of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. While searching for the missing boy, news can be seen on the TV of dozens of people killed senselessly from the war. The couple’s relationship is also under deep scrutiny by the audience.
When the film begins, Boris and Zhenya are in the midst of a nasty divorce. They still live together (as in THE CHILDREN ACT and AFTER LOVE) which makes matters worse. In one of their fights, they argue that their 12-year old boy, Alyosh was a mistake. Neither one wants custody of the boy and the father remarks that he best be sent to boarding school, in preparation for the army afterwards. She says she never wanted him in the first place. The boy, meanwhile, in the film’s most moving scene is shown crying his eyes out, after overhearing what have been said by his parents. He is clearly, in his opinion unloved. He disappears.
Boris and Zhenya are forced to come together to search for their missing son. The police do not have sufficient resources to help and they seek the aid of a volunteer group. A huge segment of the film is devoted to the boy’s search. Besides watching the amazement in efficiency of this group, the audience is treated to the thoroughness of how a search for a missing person could take place. In the midst, the resentment of husband and wife is still clear, with one fiery argument leading to Boris dumping Zhenya out of the car in the middle of the road. One can only wonder where their love (if ever they had any) had gone. Zvyagintsev explains in one scene that this love never existed in the first place.
LOVELESS is not devoid of much needed humour. The most hilarious scene is the meeting of Boris and Zhenya at her mother’s house. The verbal intercourse that goes on, says it all. Zhenya’s mother is all caustic and says the first thing that comes across her mind, including her telling Zhenya in the past to have aborted the child.
Meanwhile Zhenya has another man while Boris another woman. They do not find the boy but life must go on. The film ends a few years after the boy’s disappearance – no spoilers to be given in the review. LOVELESS is a powerful film that instead of showing the power of love, shows the opposite, how life cannot survive with love. A terrific movie that won the Jury Prize at Cannes!