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With: Maryana Spivak, Aleksey Rozin, Matvey Novikov, Marina Vasilyeva, Andris Keiss
Written by: Oleg Negin, Andrey Zvyagintsev
Directed by: Andrey Zvyagintsev
MPAA Rating: R for strong sexuality, graphic nudity, language and a brief disturbing image
Language: Russian, with English subtitles
Running Time: 127
Date: 02/23/2018

Loveless (2018)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Perma Lost

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Loveless is one of the five Oscar nominees for Best Foreign Language film here in February of 2018. It's not without interest, but very depressing. It's hardly likely that it's the best foreign cinema had to offer in 2017. I have ranted many times before about the Academy's stupid rules for this category: each country submits one film to a committee, and then the committee whittles the choices down to five nominees. This causes countries to submit movies that they believe will please the committee, or at least represent their countries in a good light.

This also means that movies by actual artists are usually sidelined in favor of movies with messages. For example, Loveless director, Andrey Zvyagintsev from Russia, has been nominated in this category before (with Leviathan), while fellow countryman, the acclaimed master Alexander Sokurov (Mother and Son, Russian Ark, The Sun, etc.) has never had a film nominated in this category.

And so, back to Loveless, which starts with an almost unbearable scene as a soon-to-be-divorced couple Zhenya (Maryana Spivak) and Boris (Aleksey Rozin) argue bitterly; their son, the subject of the argument, is hiding in his room with tears streaming down his face. He runs away, and it's two days before the couple even notices he's gone. They call the police, and there is much more bitterness as they try to find him. In one scene, Zhenya and Boris drive with a lady cop to visit Zhenya's mother, on the off chance that the child is with her. If Zhenya is painted as a nasty harpy, her mother is an even meaner, nastier old battleax. In a film this unpleasant, I'll leave it up to you to guess whether or not the child is found.

But the movie is not without its moments, especially its rare moments of quiet. There are shots along a riverbank, where the boy walks home from school that provide a silently compelling emotional picture of the situation, and there is a search in an abandoned building that is far more mournful than any of the scenes of arguing. Zvyagintsev chooses an uninspired gray palette for most of the scenes, highlighting the dreariness of it all. I can't imagine who would go to see Loveless other than Oscar completists, but I can say that if brave viewers wanted to check it out, they'll likely find something worthwhile here. But in the future, definitely dig a little deeper to find movies that are more personal, more profound, and not pre-approved for awards.

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