Loveless: A Provocative Look at Russia

Maryana Spivak as Zhenya. © Anna Matveeva – Non-Stop Production, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

The Oscar-nominated Loveless is a film that is best served by looking it as a film offering social commentary on family life in Russia.

The limited theatrical release of the Russian film comes at a time when the country is in the news for much different reasons (cough Trump administration cough).  The film is a provocative one and it should come as no surprise given that the director, Andrey Zvyagintsev, is known for films that offer a harsh critique of Russia.  One might ask themselves what would make a mother and father ignore their child amid a divorce and starting a new life?  At the same time, the divorce battle is offered as a political allegory.  Viewers familiar with the director’s work will more than likely catch the allegory than others.

Zhenya (Maryana Spivak) and Boris (Aleksey Rozin) have been going through a brutal divorce.  There’s been bitterness, frustration, and retataliation during the battle.  The two of them have gone on to start new lives with other people.  Boris has a pregnant girlfriend whereas Zhenya’s new boyfriend is financially well off.

The divorce battle has taken them to the point of turning their back on their son, Alyosha (Matvey Novikov).  With yet another fight between the two of them, Alyosha has decided enough is enough and runs away.

While the film may be beautifully shot, there’s a sense of wondering if they even care about their child.  It’s as if he good have been abducted or killed and they wouldn’t even bother showing up for the trial.  I don’t know if that’s what the screenwriters, Zvyagintsev and Oleg Negin, were going for when they wrote the screenplay.  After he goes missing, it’s as if it’s business as usual for his parents.  There are so many people out their who struggle to conceive and yet Zhenya and Boris would have been better off not having a child.

At first glance, Loveless would appear to be a film that would make prospective parents think twice about having kids.  Knowing the director’s history, it’s important to dig deeper and see how one might look at the film and see it as a political allegory for Russia as shown through the eyes of Zhenya and Boris, their own personal drama, and the people all around them.

DIRECTOR:  Andrey Zvyagintsev
SCREENWRITER:  Oleg Negin and Andrey Zvyagintsev
CAST:  Maryana Spivak, Aleksey Rozin, Matvey Novikov, Marina Vasilyeva, Andris Keishs, Alexey Fateev

Following it’s premiere at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival and playing the festival circuit, Sony Classics opened Loveless in limited theaters on February 16, 2018 before a theatrical expansion.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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