Zhenya (Maryana Spivak) and Boris (Aleksey Rozin)are going through a vicious divorce marked by resentment, frustration and recriminations. Already embarking on new lives, each with a new partner, they are impatient to start again, to turn the page – even if it means threatening to abandon their 12-year-old son Alyosha. Until, after witnessing one of their fights, Alyosha disappears…
It really is the children who suffer most in a divorce. More-so when the parents are reprehensible, self-absorbed couple I’ve seen on film in a considerable time. As with the Safdie Brothers’ Good Time, I spent the entirety of Loveless severely disliking the protagonists, yet I was completely enthralled by their journey. The bleak monotony of their arcs is engrossing and repulsive in equal measure as Boris and Zhenya’s selfishness, resentment and agonies seep into every scene. Each character has a way to distance or detach themselves from the present. Faces glued to social media or with car radios cranked incredibly loud, these repugnant parents manoeuvre through their shared loss with a subconscious self-preservation that frustrates, yet seems completely plausible.
Amidst the dour miseries are the occasional glimpse of dry, dark humour. Without it, Loveless would descend into another exercise in misery porn. Mikhail Krichman’s cinematography is impressive. He grounds Moscow in a naturalistic gloom that skilfully evades the stylised cinematic veil in which many modern thrillers are adorned. As the winter draws in we are met with weather warnings on the television, the first glimpse of snowfall out of the windows and a profound sense of loss. The greatest trick Loveless pulls is to make the audience care for the plight of Alyosha. As search parties scour the landscape I found my eyes scanning the edges of the screen, trying to make out shadows in the dark and desperately hoping he’d safe.
Remarkably well paced, Loveless is laced with elements of Fincher with a touch of Tomas Alfredson’s Let The Right One In. Less of a whodunnit, more of a whydunnit, the relentlessly oppressive hopelessness will not be for everyone. But as an exercise in loss, pain and heartbreak, Loveless is an absolute marvel.
Loveless is released on February 9th
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