Review: ‘Loveless’ takes grim look at modern day Russia

A divorcing couple’s child goes missing in this Oscar-nominated film from director Andrey Zvyagintsev

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

Russia’s nominee for Best Foreign Language Film at this year’s Oscars, “Loveless” is a dark, cold, spellbinding portrait of a country, and a society, in crisis. The Jennifer Lawrence thriller “Red Sparrow,” currently in theaters, also unfolds in an icy, unforgiving Russia. But compared to “Loveless,” “Red Sparrow” is a Disney outing.

Maryana Spivak, left, and Matvey Novikov star in “Loveless.”

Zhenya (Maryana Spivak) and Boris (Alexey Rozin) are in the final days of a painful, agonizing marriage. When she’s not taking selfies, Zhenya openly berates her husband, who is so beaten down he can barely pick up his head. He’s already moved on and is in another relationship, same with her. But his company has a strict anti-divorce policy, a function of a top-down ordinance meant to promote the importance of a family unit. (Yeah, right.)

Lost in their bitter, abusive relationship is their 12-year-old son, Alyosha (Matvey Novikov), whom Zhenya treats even worse than she does her husband. But when Alyosha goes missing — he’s been emotionally missing for years, his physical disappearance is the next logical step — search parties are employed to comb the town and its surrounding areas to find him, after the broken police system offers no help.

“Loveless” is devastating and draining, and it takes a special kind of filmmaker to make despondency look this good. Director Andrey Zvyagintsev (“Leviathan”) is brave and bold behind the camera, giving “Loveless” a churning engine beyond its cold, dead heart. The whole story can be seen as a metaphor for Putin’s Russia and the way the country has lost its humanity. “Loveless” is as bleak and harsh as the tundra.

(313) 222-2284



Rated R for strong sexuality, graphic nudity, language and a brief disturbing image

Running time: 128 minutes

At the Landmark Main Art Theatre