Stars: Maryana Spivak, Aleksey Rozin, Matvey Novikov, Varvara Shmyoka
Zvyagintsev, director of Leviathan and The Return, delivers another masterpiece with this harrowing but riveting Russian parable. Boris (Rozin) and Zhenya (Spivak) are a Moscow-dwelling married couple in the throes of a bitter divorce. Even though they already have new partners, with Boris’s girlfriend already expecting their first child, their financial situation, along with a lack of clarity on who will eventually have custody of their twelve-year-old son Alyosha (Novikov), means they still live under the same roof. The constant viscous sniping takes its toll on the sensitive Alyosha. When he goes missing the couple must come together with police and volunteers to try to find him. It’s an unapologetically unflinching but gripping study of solipsism and indifference in contemporary Russia, the depiction of a relationship in a downward spiral suggesting an update of Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage for the social media generation (Zhenya is constantly staring at her phone). Despite the harrowing subject matter, the director’s clarity of vision and willingness to tackle this level of dysfunction head on is exhilarating. The picture also works as a thriller with Zvyagintsev imbuing each perfectly-framed shot with layers of suggested, intense meaning.