Irish Film Institute -Return, The

Return, The

Director: Andrei Zvyagintsev

Russia| 2003. Subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 110 mins.

Winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, Russian director Andrei Zvyagintsev’s The Return is suggestive of a lost era—the highly crafted allegorical Eastern European art films of the ’60s and ’70s. Zvyagintsev, a former actor and TV director, locks on to a compelling story that has both psychological and political resonance. After an absence of 12 years, the father of two adolescent boys abruptly materialises in the home of their pretty blonde mother and, by way of getting acquainted, insists on taking his confused sons on a fishing trip. Rough-hewn, handsome, and casually brutal, the father (Konstantin Lavronenko) seems to be a proponent of tough love. Fifteen-year-old Andrei (Vladimir Garin) is eager for paternal attention, but the younger Vanya (Ivan Dobronravov) is considerably less enthusiastic.
The battle of wills commences when the reconstituted family stops in some backwater and Dad sends Andrei to find a restaurant, a task that takes him hours. After a stressful meal, Dad gives the brothers his wallet and then has to demonstrate his fearsome mettle when they’re mugged by local urchins. Disgusted Dad is about to send Andrei and Vanya back on the bus to their mother but inexplicably changes his mind. At this point, the movie too makes an enigmatic shift in location. . . .
The Return begins as a mysterious quest, shades into a discomfiting thriller, then a survival story, and finally a tragic parable. Primordial and laconic, this remarkably assured debut feature has the elegant simplicity of its title. The mode is sustained, the structure overt. Some may be put off by the movie’s cool technique and boldly closed form, but it clearly announces Zvyagintsev as a director to watch.

Book Tickets