Young boy Alyosha is caught between a turbulent storm between his mother Zhenya and father Boris who are already in the midst of a divorce, selling their home and looking to make a fresh start with their new partners. Except instead of fighting over the rights as to who takes care of the child, both are trying to justify why the other should be the one responsible looking after him. Zhenya is more obsessed taking selfies of how beautiful she is, portraying a painted image of glorious lifestyle on social media whilst shacking up with a new sugar daddy. Boris on the other hand appears jaded as a corporate drone at a Christian firm and is concerned about his job as his employees don’t look too kindly on divorce, so he has much cause for concern as his new young girlfriend is pregnant and they’re having to stay at her mother’s apartment. In the midst of eloping with their new partners, they abandon all thought of the welfare of their son. When Zhenya returns home after a night away, she realises that Alyosha is missing. When she informs Boris it’s an inconvenience to him. Reporting it to the police, they cannot help as they are already overburdened with cases and bureaucracy. Instead there is a volunteer team who can help. Boris assists with the search party, but without knowing whether Alyosha has just ran away or been kidnapped, time is running out as the chaos of winter will soon make the search impossible. If one thing is sure, it won’t heal anything between Zhenya and Boris.
Zvyahintsev is very much in the love camp for art house critics and Loveless is another dose of viagra for them. In truth I’ve never been a convert, often finding his work misrerabilist and meandering. Loveless however didn’t want to make me depart my seat. Part of the Zvyahintsev attraction is how beautiful he composes each scene and Loveless is a continuation to that commitment. It’s bleakness are occasionally perforated by some pockets of black humour, particularly from the vitriolic relationship between Zhenya and Boris, with Zhenya on a mission to let Boris know how he ruined her life without a pause for breath.
At times you have to take the scenario with a pinch of salt, the dramatic licence feels a bit embellished when creating such disdain for their child. And a bit too often it feels that Andrey Zvyagintsev is trying to force feed some form of social commentary down the audiences’ throats. One dig very much towards the bureaucracy of the police statehood, who cannot commit to a response to the missing child as they are already overburdened, thus pass the puck to volunteer groups to man the efforts. It seems a valid point to make but there seems to be a satyrical theme of women being promiscuous, or only interested in self image via social media that is not wholly tangible to the plot or story and if anything, a tad sexist. Loveless almost serves as an antithesis to the typical Hollywood message of massaging the ideology of the nuclear family, whereas Zvyahintsev serves the Russian equivalent as a poisoned chalice. But when Zvyahintsev wants to shock your emotional core, he does so rather masterfully, even if it is only delivered in just two scenes, one when seeing Alyosha streaming with tears after hearing his parents argue as to who will be burdened with him. Overall a chilling and scornful view of absent parenting presented as a Russian societal shortcoming that the generation of tomorrow are nothing but an afterthought, that is worth viewing despite it’s bleakness.
Loveless will be on release from the 9th of February