Mar 25, 2018

It's a bleak world but beautiful cinema.


Grade: A

Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev (Leviathan)

Screenplay: Zvyagintsev, Oleg Negin (Leviathan)

Cast: Maryana Spivak, Aleksey Rozin (Leviathan)

Rating: R

Runtime: 2hr 7min

by John DeSando

“I think I’ve made a terrible mistake.” Zehyna (Maryana Spivak)

She may have had more than one mistake, but the one that propels the grief of Loveless is being a mother. Hence the title.  Writer Director Andrey Zvyagintsev creates a dramatic story of such pathos and regret that it’s no surprise when Maryana and Boris’s 12 year old son disappears probably due to their egregious neglect and arguing about getting a divorce within his earshot.

Like the son, we’d leave that depressing situation except that the story leads us wanting to see if they find the son and if the search brings the couple back together. All this happens while the cinematography features the beautifully bleak Russian landscape and decaying buildings. The metaphor for their failed marriage has equal partnership with the chillingly lovely winter scape.

I don’t know for sure, but Loveless not only captures a couple so detached from love of their partners and their child, it also comments on the separation of the Ukraine and the notoriously chilling Russian life divorced from the high-profile comfort of Vladimir Putin’s oligarchy, where the commoners search for love that does not comfortably occupy their hearths.

Yet in the end this is not a story just about Russia; it is about all the fragmented, tortured relationships in the world that spawn children who have managed to get in the way of the solipsistic lifestyle contemporary millennials seem to desire. This film does not torture you with the lonely life of contemporary bourgeoisie; it rather suggests a fragmented future of self-centered couples, and I forgot to mention the motif of spouses on 24/7 with their smart phones. That is depressing.

Although it doesn’t look good for us in the future, Loveless’s nomination for Oscar’s best foreign language film has an enviable artistic future. If you think of Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage, Antonioni’s L’Avventura, or Haneke’s Hidden, you’re right in Loveless territory. Not a bad convention, I think.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at