Loveless (Nelyubov) (R)

Drama 127 min. March 2, 2018
By Bilge Ebiri
Two representative moments define Andrei Zvyagintsev's Loveless -- and they are among the most devastating, harrowing things I've ever seen on a screen. I won't spoil what they are, as one relies on the element of surprise and the other happens quite late. But their raw emotionalism both complicates and deepens Zvyagintsev's film, which hovers between personal drama and deep political allegory.

The story concerns a family that maybe should never have existed: Alyosha (Matvey Novikov) is a 12-year-old boy whose bitter, distracted parents, Boris (Aleksey Rozin) and Zhenya (Maryana Spivak), are in the midst of a slow-rolling divorce. They've both got new partners -- she's found a wealthy older businessman, and he's found a young traditional woman whom he's already gotten pregnant. The parents' almost violent disregard for their son is the stuff of fairy tale villains.

Soon, however, Alyosha goes missing, and father and mother go from inattention to irritation to anguish. The bulk of the film concerns the methodical search of the surrounding areas: The police, like most institutions in Zvyagintsev's world, are useless, so instead the parents are helped by a group of highly organized grassroots volunteers. The hunt takes them through apartment blocks, dense forests, abandoned wastelands and a decaying Soviet-era complex that once housed conference rooms, a movie theater and a basketball court -- a massive, decrepit building that looks right out of Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker.

Loveless works on a base emotional level -- dear God, how it works on that level -- but there's something else going on here: The year is 2012, and Russia here is a wasteland of survival, a huge, heartless place where solitary souls are not allowed to exist.
Andrey Zvyagintsev Maryana Spivak, Aleksey Rozin, Yanina Hope, Matvey Novikov Oleg Negin Sony Pictures Classics

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