Apocalypses loom large in the world of Loveless, from the impending implosion of a family that gives the film its story to its setting in October 2012, with the Mayan calendar predicting the world’s end in the next couple of months. There’s a rushed panic in the air, but it’s too late – doomsday has already arrived. Left near-catatonic with grief after hearing a venomous argument between his divorcing parents, Alyosha (Matvey Novikov) vanishes into the woods.
The boy’s disappearance should push his mother Zhenya (Maryana Spivak) and father Boris (Aleksey Ronin) past their differences in a bid to find him, but instead they continue with their useless recriminations and selfishness. Both the parents are exceedingly well acted, but in the end are too vile to ever feel anything for. Boris is an unforgivable careerist coward, and Zhenya’s self-righteous vanity is sickening, the pair of them clearly deserving one another, but instead moving to impart their misery on their child and new partners.
None of the adults come off well, with the exception of the resourceful and caring volunteer army that assembles to track Alyosha. This hunt is compelling and writer-director Andrey Zvyagintsev tightens the noose with every dead end in the search until gut-deep despair takes hold. Loveless finds unexpected humour here too, with a profoundly unhelpful visit to Zhenya’s mother very funny despite its nastiness. News reports of political turmoil make it clear that Alyosha’s situation is that of every one of Russia’s children, lost and terrified in a world their elders have failed to make habitable.
It’s a political message that feels a little more tacked-on than its equivalent in Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan, but bracingly subversive nonetheless. A freezing cold film with deliberately alienating ‘protagonists’, Loveless is austere and powerful, and absolutely not one to see with your parents.
CAST: Maryana Spivak, Yanina Hope, Aleksey Rozin
DIRECTOR: Andrey Zvyagintsev
WRITERS: Oleg Negin, Andrey Zvyagintsev
SYNOPSIS: A couple going through a divorce must team up to find their son who has disappeared during one of their bitter arguments.