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"Loveless" is the latest from Andrey Zvyagintsev, the Russian director of “Leviathan” and “Elena.” Having premiered at Cannes, it made its North American premiere at TIFF today, and it’s a heartbreaking piece of work, an examination of a young life falling through the cracks of a selfish world. “Loveless” is a family drama that turns into a procedural, both presented with Zvyagintsev’s remarkable attention to detail and eye for composition. It’s a visually mesmerizing film, even as it captures a nightmarish situation.

At first, “Loveless” is a study of the atmosphere of divorce. We meet salon owner Zhenya (the excellent Maryan Spivak) and salesman Boris (Alexei Rozin) near the end of their union. There is no sense that this will be a film about reconciliation. They hate each other, and have already moved on to other partners—in fact, Boris’ new girlfriend is already pregnant and likely to become his new wife as soon as the divorce is finalized (or Boris risks losing his job, believe it or not, as his boss frowns on single men as employees). The two fight viciously and cruelly whenever they’re together, and it is after one of those fights that Zvyagintsev cuts to a figure in the doorway in the other room, Boris and Zhenya’s 12-year-old son Alexey (Matvey Novikov), weeping in a way that shatters your heart.

One morning, after a long night with her lover forces her to sleep in late, Zhenya gets a call from Alexey’s school. He never showed up. And he might not have been there the night before either. Zhenya didn’t check when she got home. From here, “Loveless” becomes a procedural about how Russian officials investigate missing children, and how Boris and Zhenya are torn apart from the inside, as well as a commentary on how much of the world is detaching from one another, favoring phones over actual communication. Most of all, long scenes of searching for Alexey produce an increasingly desperate sense of loss. There’s a sequence of Boris searching a worn-down building they think Alexey may have been squatting in that’s one of the best cinematic metaphors for divorce I’ve ever seen—a place that clearly once held life and happiness but is now decrepit and unstable. And a place where a child can get lost. This is a tough film, but it might also be a great one.

Courtesy: Brian Tallerico,


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Directed by: 
Andrey Zvyagintsev
Running Time: 
127 minutes
Russia, France, Germany, Belgium
Russian with English Subtitles
Maryana Spivak, Aleksey Rozin, Matvey Novikov, Vladimir Vdovichenkov
Screenplay by: 
Andrey Zvyagintsev and Oleg Negin

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