As I suspected it would be, Andrey Zvyagintsev‘s Loveless is a chilly, anguished and entirely brilliant film. Sad but so good. Every shot, every frame, every line is dead cold honest — it deals straight cards without a smidgen of bullshit. Plus it’s beautiful to look at and exquisitely performed. It’s a story about a marriage gone bad — a moribund mismatch, utterly ruined — and a 12 year-old boy, the emotionally aloof son of this mournful couple, gone missing. But like Leviathan, Loveless is about much more than just the tale.
It deals in specifics (certainly in terms of finely-drawn character and investigative logistics when it comes to searching for the boy) but it delivers a rich, reflective look at everything and everyone under the gray Russian skies. It’s about the whole undertow of Russian life right now, or more specifically five years ago as it takes place in 2012 — a capturing of things not right and depleted, of self-absorption and a lack of wholeness and fulfillment, a case of bitterness and uncertainty and a general sense of downswirl, the whole current of a culture no longer thriving with spirit and tradition and togetherness but starting to fray from a lack of these things.
If Leviathan was about Russian corruption from the top down and a populace drowning in hopelessness and vodka, Loveless is about spiritual attrition through vanity, selfishness, manipulation and too many ambivalent, disloyal people seething and shouting and staring at smartphone screens. Or into the abyss.
For me, Loveless is somber and dazzling at the same time. By no means a feel-good thing but definitely a movie that you’ll believe and trust in every way imaginable, and in that sense it’s the kind of immersive experience that you can’t help but feel nurtured by and delighted with. I was 100% engaged and enthralled. Hell, I was spellbound.
Zyagintsev is a major-league, genius-level hombre, no question, and this movie is another serving of that recipe, that stew, that vibe that makes you lean forward in your seat and just go “wow, I need to see this again as soon as possible.” Is that “entertainment”? For me it is. Will the megaplexers have the same reaction? Of course not. They’re too dull and stupid to get a movie like this, but if you have even a shred of longing for the rock-solid elements that Zvyagintsev’s Loveless, Leviathan and Elena provide, it’ll fill you up like a big juicy steak.