Loveless (Russia)

Key Russian Import


11 February 2018| No Comments on Loveless (Russia)     by Sean Chavel



I am ever so certain the winner of Best Foreign Film at the Oscars this year should have been the Russian film Loveless. I’m a liberal but liberals at large would have been outraged, I mean, how could we allow Russia to win anything when in real life they are suspected of colluding with American traitors? Thinking that would just mean you are uninformed. What I find fascinating with the films of Andrey Zvyagintsev (“Leviathan,” “Elena,” “The Return”) is that he doesn’t seem to make films for his own people. The way he even arranges shots fills the purpose of letting other countries see what drudgery surrounds daily Russian life. It’s as if he’s saying, “Look at how much we suck. We’re corrupt and duplicitous. We’re frigid and disaffected. We’re malcontent and suppressed. We live in cold, empty surroundings.”


Zvyagintsev has been more merciless before with corruption and certain social classes terrorizing other social classes as he did with “Leviathan.” With “Loveless,” which I consider his best film to date because the situation has an inherent stony hold-your-breath riveting quality, it’s a missing child drama which you don’t know if the child was a runaway or a kidnapped victim.

The two main characters are a divorcing Moscow couple who are trying to sell off their condo as quickly as possible, and when they’re in each other’s company, it’s a toxic stand-off with crucial conversations centering around who will be the one to take over the parenting duties of their 12-year old son after they split. Both of them proclaim that they would not do it full-time, but each one also makes it clear they want as little time with their son as possible. The son is in earshot.

In a plot turn that suggests great neglect because it’s obvious they didn’t consult with each other, they simultaneously both take the night off to be with their lovers – ice queen Zhenya (Maryana Spivak) is with a rich man for the first time in her life, and blasé Boris (Alexy Rozin) is with a younger needy blonde whom is already pregnant with his child. That means their 12-year old (Matvey Novikov), often a loner sobbing in the dark with a barren self-esteem, was left alone all night long. When Zhenya returns home, she hasn’t bothered to check to see if he was in the room. It takes a phone call from the school to inform her that he’s been gone.

“Loveless” goes all in with its title. This isn’t just a loveless couple that’s dramatically examined. It’s a loveless bureaucratic system and a loveless social climate. The police are not very helpful because they presume if it’s a runaway then the runaway will return home (it induces less paperwork). But the police do lend the parents advice to enlist the help of a volunteer rescue group where dozens put on orange vests to proactively look through parks, abandoned buildings, nearby apartments with basements and rooftops. The squad is philanthropic, and they are doing work that nobody else will do. But there’s an emotionless detachment to their efforts, as if they feel they must restrain themselves to get spiritually invested in case there comes no positive results.

The parents hardly form an alliance like many would do to find their child. In place of sentiment, the hostilities and resentments bubble up. After two hours we get a denouement, but the outcome is not as important as the thought that any revelation will not change who these people are permanently on the inside. The final scenes are juxtaposed with a few minutes spent with both their new lives. I wouldn’t call these characters on-track for they are still making the same self-absorbed and disparaging mistakes as when the story began. The Russian minister of culture hasn’t banned Zvyagintsev’s films for content, because they seem to be not smart enough to see that his films as wholes are anti-country. Brilliant.


Russian film with English subtitles.

128 Minutes. Rated R.


Film Cousins: “The Return” (2004, Russia); “Elena” (2012, Russia); “Prisoners” (2013); “Leviathan” (2014, Russia).



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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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