Still living under the same roof, the Moscow couple of Boris and Zhenya is in the terrible final stages of a bitter divorce. Under those circumstances, as both have already found new partners, the insults pour down like rain in this toxic familial battle zone, always pivoting around the irresolvable and urgent matter of Alyosha’s custody, their 12-year-old only son. Unheard, unloved, and above all, unwanted, the introverted and unhappy boy feels that he is an intolerable burden, however, what his parents don’t know is that he can hear every single word. As a result, when Boris and Zhenya finally realize that Alyosha has been missing for nearly two days, it is already too late. But is this a simple case of a runaway teenager?
Loveless (Russian: Нелюбовь) is a 2017 Russian drama film directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev. The story concerns two separated parents living apart whose affections are long forgotten and whose relationship has become loveless. They are temporarily brought together after their only young child becomes a missing person and they attempt to find him.
The film was shot in Moscow, with international support after the Russian government disapproved of Zvyagintsev’s 2014 film Leviathan. Loveless opened to critical acclaim and it won the Jury Prize at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. It is nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
About the Story
In Moscow, at the end of the school day, students are departing on their way home. One twelve year old boy, Alexey, decides to take an indirect path home rather than using the regular city streets. Alexey takes a path which leads him to walk by a local river in a wooded area just on the outskirts of town. He appears to be in no particular rush to get home. His parents, Zhenya and Boris, are in the midst of obtaining a divorce, with much animosity. They are portrayed as having divergent and incompatible personalities. Both are trying to form new lives in new relationships.
One day, it is discovered that the boy has disappeared from home, and his mother calls the police for assistance. At first, the police see this as the simple case of a runaway child and expect the boy to return home within a day or two. However, when Alexey does not return, then another supervisor takes over the case and promptly initiates a preliminary search for the boy by sending the parents to estranged relatives in the hope of locating him.
They are first sent to see if Alexey is at his mother’s parents. Alexey is not there when they arrive, though their trip to visit her mother out of town is punctuated by tension between the estranged relatives and Boris is verbally berated and excoriated by Zhenya. On the return trip home, her verbal abuse escalates to the point that Boris discharges her on the rural roadway before they get back to town.
The failure of the police to find Alexey promptly escalates the search for him into an all out emergency missing persons search across the town and surrounding areas. A search of an abandoned municipal building from an old dilapidated city development project where Alexey was known to have visited turns up nothing.
Finally, the parents are asked to come to the morgue to examine and try to identify the remains of a John Doe child of still unknown identity. The parents both deny that the disfigured dead child’s body is their son, though the experience of being put through the identification process is emotionally traumatic to them as they breakdown in tears of desperation, with Alexey still missing.
Later, Alexey’s mother has sold their apartment and workers begin dismantling wall hangings and appliances left behind in the now vacant apartment. Outside on the street, missing person posters of Alexey now canvas large parts of the city trying to seek help in locating the missing boy. The scene shifts to the nearby river by the wooded path which Alexey used to use to walk home after school and the view focuses on an extended landscape scene looking through naked winter branches of the surrounding very tall trees. The tree branches sway slightly against the winter sky with no sight of Alexey or anyone else among the naked winter branches.
Directed by: Andrey Zvyagintsev
Starring: Maryana Spivak, Aleksey Rozin, Matvey Novikov, Marina Vasileva, Andris Keiss, Aleksey Fateev, Natalya Potapova, Anna Gulyarenko, Artyom Zhigulin, Maksim Solopov, Tatyana Ryabokon, Varvara Shmykova
Screenplay by: Oleg Negin, Andrey Zvyagintsev
Production Design by: Andrey Ponkratov
Cinematography by: Mikhail Krichman
Film Editing by: Anna Mass
Music by: Evgueni Galperine, Sacha Galperine
MPAA Rating: R for strong sexuality, graphic nudity, language and a brief disturbing image.
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics
Release Date: February 16, 2018