Dir: Andrey Zvyagintsev | Cast: Marie Bonnevie, Konstantin Lavronenko, Alexander Baluev | Russia | Drama | 118′
After critical acclaim with THE RETURN, Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev’s second feature kicks off with a gritty opening sequence that gives the early impression of an edgy and sinuous thriller with a potential for brutal violence. Not so. What we actually get is an unsettling social drama based loosely on a story by William Saroyan entitled The Laughing Matter.
Set in an indiscriminate time and place (could be the seventies, certainly Northerly, could be somewhere in Russia, it is actually Moldova) it has a ‘retro’ feel although we never get the answers to these questions. But this enigmatic quality and an ominous soundtrack adds to the suspence of this unusual film. The story centres on Vera, a timid and insecure mother (played by the Norwegian born actress Marie Bonnevie) and her relationship with Alexander and his brother Mark. It follows on from the tragic events of one summer when they take their two children to the country dacha for a family holiday, and certainly to lay low, although we never find out why. The general mood is one of tension and impending doom that soon descends into bewilderment as the sprawling story unfolds. Overlong and at times confusing, this is certainly not the masterpiece it led us to believe it would in the opening sequence, it is nevertheless a film that begs to be noticed for its cinematic impact and well-crafted performances. Meredith Taylor ©
OUT ON BLURAY |16 APRIL 2018 | ANDREY ZVYAGINTSEV