This movie is another example of why people hate movie critics. Director Andrey Zvyaginstev (Leviathan) was lucky enough to have this movie nominated for an Oscar for “best foreign film.” Some might see it because of that, but more will see it because of the critical praise. And that’s a shame, because this is one long slog of a movie to sit through.
I’m guessing this is one Oscar nomination Mother Russia won’t be so proud of.
Zhenya (Maryana Spivak) and Boris (Aleksey Rozin) are going through a nasty divorce. That’s made more disturbing by the fact that their 12-year-old son Alyosha (Matvey Novikov) hears their fights. What makes it worse is that when they fight over him, it’s not over the usual stuff like who will have custody. This is about who will be saddled with him. You see, Boris is eager to sell their home and move in with his younger, pregnant girlfriend. Zhenya is going to the tanning salon and getting Brazilians, and looking forward to spending time with her new man (who is more age appropriate). Geez…you thought the kid in Kramer vs Kramer had it bad because Dustin Hoffman couldn’t make French toast.
The last movie involving a nasty divorce I remember enjoying was What Maisie Knew (Julianne Moore, Alexander Skarsgard).
The problem with this couple is that there’s never really a break from all the negativity. The characters never seem to grow, and you don’t care about either of them.
When the boy decides if he isn’t wanted, he’ll leave…things get interesting. For about six minutes. Then it’s back to being boring and dark.
The actors do a fine job portraying miserable people. And during all this, we get the backdrop of war in the Ukraine around 2012 (the same year the terrific What Maisie Knew came out).
Now, had this couple bonded a bit more over the search for their child, there might have been something there. Instead, they just go at each other even more.
There’s one scene (I can’t tell you where it takes place, or that would spoil it)…where the mother breaks down crying. It was an interesting moment. In fact, there were a few interesting moments, usually involving lovely cinematography. One of those scenes involves volunteers out looking for the boy in the harsh snow. Another has them searching an abandoned building. Some of the visuals of the top of trees swaying in the wind were cool.
I think there was a subplot about corruption in Russian, but I’m not sure. I was so bored, my mind was wandering, and I checked out on a lot of what the talking heads on the TV news in the background were saying.
The whole thing was a rather convoluted narrative, and the slow pacing made it a painful two hours for my wife and I to endure.
The only decent people in the movie were the investigators. And if we can’t have sympathy for parents that have a missing son…
1 star out of 5.