An in-depth exploration of character and familial bonds, Russian
film “The Return” does everything that a Hollywood film
doesn’t or, rather, does nothing audiences expect films to.
First-time director Andrei Zvyagintsev refuses to give his audience
clear-cut answers to the questions he poses, nor does he wrap up
all the loose ends of his film — and, surprisingly, the film
works because of it.
Brothers Andrey (Vladimir Garin) and Ivan (Ivan Dobronravov)
come home from playing one day to find their father has returned
home after a 12-year absence. In an attempt to create an appearance
of fatherly love, their father (Konstantin Lavronenko) arranges a
bizarre fishing excursion, where he runs his sons through a series
of exercises fashioned to mold these mama’s boys into men.
Ivan, who is around 12 years old, resents his father for abandoning
him and feels betrayed by older brother Andrey’s attempts to
please their father. The film is a struggle for love, allegiances,
and understanding of one another — the boys never find out
why exactly their father decided to return or where he had
It’s hard to believe this is Zvyagintsev’s first
film. The performances he draws from his actors are impressive
— particularly Dobronravov’s as the sullen,
angst-ridden Ivan — and the way he establishes the
unsettling, murky mood of the piece is masterful. The use of
erratic handheld camera work in suspenseful scenes would make Lars
Von Trier jealous, and the way he frames his shots makes even the
most mundane scene and dreariest landscape look like a work of
“The Return,” with its haunting mood, complex
characters and probing questions, provides a fulfilling and
engaging moviegoing experience and introduces a new filmmaking
talent to the world. HHHHH
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.