109 minutes, Russia, 2011, Subtitled, Colour, D-Cinema

The latest from Andrei Zvyagintsev, esteemed director of The Return, lucidly examines the simmering resentments created by Russia’s economic deregulation. The deliberately paced opening allows us ample time to soak in the designer environs of an upmarket Moscow apartment, where Elena (Nadezhda Markina) is the dutiful middle-aged wife of the wealthy Vladimir (Andrei Smirnov). Both have kids from previous marriages, but while she’s critical of the way he spoils his dissolute 20-something-year-old daughter, he draws the line at helping her layabout son and his increasing family. She accuses him of heartlessness, but as the noir-influenced plot works its way towards a turnaround of circumstances, the issue of just who holds the moral high ground is one Zvyagintsev clearly wants the viewer to bear in mind.

The film is never hectoring, but in its determined, insinuating way it’s surprising and thought-provoking, held together by a performance of babushka charm and terrifying cold steel from the remarkable Markina. (Notes by Trevor Johnston.)

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