Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev
Year of release: 2018
Running time: 2 hours 7 minutes
Andrey Zvyagintsev's elegantly downbeat Loveless is a drama about emotional disconnection, charting the story of a 12-year-old boy, Alexey (Matvey Novikov), who goes missing not long after his parents, Zhenya (Maryana Spivak) and Boris (Aleksey Rosin), fight bitterly about who will have custody. What follows is a dissection of self-entitled people existing inside an emotional and psychological vacuum; mirroring the hollow spiritual state of modern day Russia.
Like his previous film, Leviathan, Zvyagintsev uses silence and symmetrical imagery in order compliment his interest in familial disintegration. Zhenya and Boris are truly unfit parents, and their newfound relationships--Boris with a younger pregnant woman who represents very little challenge, Zhenya with an older wealthy businessman--begin to crack under the pressure as the search for their missing child intensifies. Though Loveless often feels like a mystery procedural, with Alexey's absence haunting nearly every frame, what exactly happened to the child is not chiefly Zvyaginsev's concern. Instead, the loss of humanism; strongly inferred by the chaos erupting throughout Ukraine circa 2012, is used as a counterpoint to the bitter vanity of the parents.
Loveless is acutely aware of the emotional vacancy that comes from slowly desensitizing an entire population, using an apocalyptic tale of a failed marriage to express the absence of genuine love in a harshly unforgiving society. The innocent child who wanders aimlessly through the tangled woods needs love in order to survive, and Zvyaginesv seems to be arguing that his parents are incapable of this since Russia is incapable of providing a construct for such love. However, even that reading makes Loveless sound like a reductive allegory. This is a film which maintains a consistent aura of enigmatic power; leading us slowly, though gradually, towards a bleak kind of poetry, and maybe even hope.