The Return

Intense Tarkovsky-esque Russian thriller

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DIRECTED BY Andrey Zvyagintsev

STARRING Ivan Dobronravov, Vladimir Garin, Konstantin Lavronenko

Opens June 25, Cert 12A, 106 mins

It’s almost impossible to believe that this could be a feature film debut. The Return, which has won a slew of prizes on the festival circuit, marks Siberian-born director Andrey Zvyagintsev out as a staggering breakthrough talent.

This Russian drama follows two teenage brothers, Vanya (Dobronravov) and Andrey (Garin), whose lives are thrown off-kilter by the sudden return, after a 12-year absence, of their father, a man who they know only through a faded photograph. Initially posing some obvious questions?where has their father been for the last 12 years? And why has he returned home now??Zvyagintsev intentionally skirts round the answers, leaving much unsaid, which brings a compelling layer of mystery to the movie.

The father takes the boys on what they believe is a fishing trip, and the brothers struggle to relate to him. Andrey, the older of the two, is compliant but Vanya, disappointed by this cold, authoritarian stranger, turns rebellious. What if he isn’t our father, he wonders, and a sense of foreboding grows.

The performances from all three of the central actors are outstanding (tragically, Vladimir Garin died in an accident shortly after the film was completed). And Zvyagintsev uses the stark, rain-lashed landscape to create hypnotic visual rhythms and a palpable sense of tension. Heroically restrained, Zvyagintsev’s direction is as powerful an argument as you’ll ever see for the truism that less is more.

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