This slow and bleakly beautiful meditation on the decay and desolation of modern day Russia is framed around the story of one broken family.
High in an apartment, the 12 year marriage of Zhenya (Maryana Spivak) and Boris (Aleksey Rozin) has come to an end. Vitriolic in their bitterness towards each other, the silent, fragile victim of their fractured life is 12-year-old Alexey. Zhenya and Boris go about their day, complaining to workmates about their difficult lives and disinterest in parenting and they each find solace with their new lovers. Neither return home until late and it is the next day when they realise that Alexey is missing.
The painstaking search for Alexey is played out against an exquisite backdrop of urban Russia. The colour palette is almost monochrome but suffused with the gold and cyan of artificial lighting or the pastel decay of abandoned buildings and punctuated with the fluorescent orange of the search party.
We see the generational lovelessness that has led to this moment; the vitriol of Zhenya’s mother and each person’s selfishness and suppressed fury at their individual hopelessness. We see the disconnect between the lives of our protagonists in the world outside the door; news reports tell of political corruption and massacres but this has less immediacy than the latest social media post.
There is an extended scene in a derelict building that shows the grandeur that is being allowed to decay and crumble into the forest. Even the search party, volunteers who provide a protective community of support, do so with dogged orderliness and little emotion.
The message ultimately is a bleak one, that the loss of love – for oneself and for one’s people – is a generational blight that will not easily be resolved.
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