Winner of the Golden Lion at last year’s Venice Film Festival, Andrei Zvyagintsev’s macho endurance test The Return is an abject lesson in abject parenting. After many years, “Father” (Konstantin Lavronenko) returns from places unknown and takes his two boys, drama queens Andrey (Haley Joel Osment lookalike Vladimir Garin, who died shortly after filming was completed) and Vanya (Ivan Dobronravov), to locations undisclosed. Making up for lost time, Daddy crams a lifetime’s worth of child abuse into seven days—when he isn’t advising his boys how to kick the shit out of bullies, he slaps Vanya around and leaves Andrey on the side of the road for complaining too much. If there’s no logical context for the man’s ghoulish behavior and se-la-vie disconnect form the world (he offers no explanation for his 12-year absence from their lives), at least young Andrey seems to share our frustration, dutifully bugging-out just when you’re ready to belt on the film. The Return is a mess hall of dreary aesthetic shout-outs: the symmetrical, sparsely furnished interiors recall Tarkovsky; characters sit down for dinner a la Bergman; and the breathless sprint that precedes Papa’s arrival evokes the Neorealist movement. Once the family—sans “Mother” (Natalya Vdovina)—hits the road, Zvyagintsev picks a style and sticks to it (his widescreen shots hauntingly evoke the emptiness of these people’s lives). The vistas are gorgeous and the score by Andrey Dergatchev makes for great comedown music, but the story mawkishly strains for parallelism and the film only ends up celebrating the father’s tough love by twist’s end.
- Kino International
- 106 min
- Andrei Zvyagintsev
- Vladimir Moiseyenko, Andrei Zvyagintsev
- Vladimir Garin, Ivan Dobronravov, Konstantin Lavronenko, Natalya Vdovina, Galina Petrova
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