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(Russia with English Subtitles): The story centers on two parents, Zhenya and Boris, who are divorced after what clearly was an extremely bitter separation. They both still live together formally, although each has taken on new relationships. In the middle is their 12-year-old son Alyosha, who one day goes missing. This is an expertly executed film. The acting from everyone is terrific. The two parents are about the most despicable, self-absorbed and “empty” people I have seen on screen; actors have to be excellent to be this bad. The boy who plays Alyosha is only in a few scenes, but those scenes are powerful, and there is one scene that is particularly heartbreaking. The woman plays the grandmother as a vile woman and proves that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. The script is excellent as it sets the film in the context of contemporary Russian society reflected in the broken souls of the parents and grandmother. The cinematography is stunning and bleak. This film got me in a strange way – I found that I was in suspense during the search scenes, not due to the anticipation of finding him, but because I knew that finding him alive would only mean that he would have to suffer under the parenting of two parents who saw him as an annoyance in their lives. Big thumbs up for a film that is very bleak but is technically a masterpiece of filmmaking and acting.

About Gary Burkholder

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