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The Return (Vozvrashcheniye)

The Return (Vozvrashcheniye) (2003)

tomatometer

97

Average Rating: 8.4/10
Critic Reviews: 32
Fresh: 31 | Rotten: 1

A suspenseful but perplexing thriller.

audience

93

liked it
Average Rating: 4.2/5
User Ratings: 8,880

My Rating

Movie Info

Two teenage Russian boys have their father return home suddenly after being absent for 12 years. The father takes the boys on a holiday to a remote island on a lake in the north of Russia that turns into a test of manhood of almost mythic proportions.

Oct 19, 2004

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All Critics (85) | Top Critics (32) | Fresh (81) | Rotten (4) | DVD (4)

The story, set in contemporary Russia, seems unexceptional at the start. Yet it plays out against a vast wilderness of shorelines and lakes, and turns tantalizing ambiguity into urgent mystery.

March 27, 2013 Full Review Source: Wall Street Journal
Wall Street Journal
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The long and eventful fishing trip Dad drags the boys on is simultaneously a very real voyage through the Russian wilderness and also, like, a Jungian trip, man.

March 27, 2013 Full Review Source: Salon.com
Salon.com
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Beautifully structured and emotionally wrenching.

March 27, 2013 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
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Zvyagintsev gets formidable concentration from his youthful actors, and his storytelling moves with the simplicity -- calm, chiselled, and suggestive -- of a fable.

March 27, 2013 Full Review Source: New Yorker
New Yorker
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Constructed like an eerie, metaphorical thriller, this tense, riveting character study offers viewers nearly two hours of emotions with a stunning pay-off no one will be expecting.

June 4, 2009 Full Review Source: Variety
Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Zvyagintsev's Venice prize-winner is a model of suspenseful storytelling. The acting, too, is terrific. Very highly recommended indeed.

February 9, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Throughout his expertly controlled film, Zvyagintsev never allows a break in the clouds to provide some reassuring sign that the brothers are on solid footing.

March 27, 2013 Full Review Source: AV Club
AV Club

Mysterious, compelling, visually inventive, The Return is a quiet but intense metaphysical-drama of great emotional impact and insight.

March 27, 2013 Full Review Source: Film4
Film4

Like each episode of Kieslowski's Decalogue, The Return is a small but potent story. It leads us to ask: Is it ever enough to just 'trust and obey'?

September 9, 2007
Looking Closer

A harrowing, elusively biblical account… echoes of Abraham and Isaac, the Gospel parables about fathers and pairs of sons, and the Second Coming.

February 11, 2006 Full Review Source: Decent Films Guide
Decent Films Guide

magnificent return of a great cinema tradition to the world stage

October 11, 2005 Full Review Source: Draxblog Movie Reviews

Si uno se queda sólo en la primera lectura del drama familiar, la experiencia puede ser bastante desconcertante.

May 8, 2005 Full Review Source: Uruguay Total
Uruguay Total

Um estudo de personagens cuja força se torna ainda maior em função das belas performances do trio principal.

January 18, 2005
Cinema em Cena

The Return feels like an experiment designed to find out how much basic plot information you can withhold from an audience and still have an interesting movie.

January 4, 2005
Vue Weekly (Edmonton, Canada)

... an unsentimental film about how childhood lingers until it abruptly ends.

December 26, 2004 Full Review Source: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

an absorbing psychological drama and coming-of-age story in the guise of a road movie

December 15, 2004 | Comment (1)

The story sidesteps all expectations and does not go where you might expect.

August 20, 2004
Jam! Movies

A remarkable achievement.

August 8, 2004 Full Review Source: Film Journal International
Film Journal International

Audience Reviews for The Return (Vozvrashcheniye)

A dark, unsettling look at two boys who struggle to come to grips with their father's (Konstantin Lavronenko) sudden return to their family after a 12 year absence, and how he takes them on a camping trip that turns into a test of each one's masculinity. Although the amount of ambiguity the film contains tends to be a little annoying at the conclusion given the film's unwillingness to give really any answers, director Andrei Zvyagintsev's point is clearly to have you as confused as the boys who are being mentally tortured by their father. Throw in a sudden, shocking twist 3/4 of the way through that is impossible to see coming, some beautiful still photography, and the fact that the actor who plays the older boy (Vladimir Garin) died a day before the film's release due to a similar accident that takes place in the film, it is a very memorable, unmistakably powerful little movie. Not for all tastes to be sure, as this is an art-house film inside and out, but a watchable one.
July 18, 2012
Dan Schultz

Super Reviewer

This family trip moving in a thrilling manner is quiet captivating for what it is, but then somehow I'd got the notion that the genius was going to end it leaving behind pieces for us to put together..... and that didn't suit my taste. Disappointing for what it gives away, but entertaining for what it maintains: the thrill. Wish the mysterious touch was as satisfying as the thrill. Yet, it's still worth a watch IMO. And I've a feeling that you're less bound to be disappointed by the genius touch that disappointed me.


P.S. If you feel that the above comment includes any spoiler, kindly note that it's absolutely unintentional. Find one at your own risk and pleasure.
January 7, 2012
imrealgod

Super Reviewer

Sometimes some seemingly ordinary situations in the lives of common people can serve as premises of highly extraordinary films such as Andrei Zvyagintsev's 2003 film, "The Return (Vozvrashcheniye)".

Somewhere in a remote part of Russia, two boys, Andrei (Vladimir Garin) and his younger brother Ivan (Ivan Dobronravov) reside with their mother and granny. Everything seems fine and the brothers share a fine brotherly chemistry. The status quo is suddenly disturbed when the boys' father (Konstantin Lavronenko) who'd been gone for an estimated period of 12 long years returns home. Where he had been and whence he had returned isn't disclosed by their mother when they inquisitively question her. "He just came back", she replies and leaves it at that! The boys begin to wonder why he returned after that long a time and discuss all sorts of theories. They even dig up an old photograph of the whole family taken when Ivan was a baby to convince themselves that the man who has returned is indeed their father!

[img]https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-JCRL5RZd-iQ/TlUrXh2c8CI/AAAAAAAACAY/ejg6NNG4qIk/vlcsnap-2011-08-23-21h40m01s202.jpg[/img]

At (apparently) their mother's request, the boys' father takes them out on a fishing trip the next day. Now, considering that these kids have absolutely no emotional attachment (not surprisingly) whatsoever with this man who says he is their father, it becomes a pretty challenging task to suddenly obey him as he tries to exercise his right over them as a father would. The whole exercise seems to be clearly awkward for the father as well, who also doesn't seem to exhibit any real connection with the kids. While the older Andrei tries his level best to adjust to his newly returned father's whims, the younger Ivan takes a rebellious stand and refuses to comply with his father's authoritative demeanor.
[img]https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-a1sbdTpW_BI/TlUrXi72UqI/AAAAAAAACAU/9nJitzN_Mv4/vlcsnap-2011-08-23-21h43m17s133.jpg[/img]
Ivan's attitude towards his father grows more negative as he begins to suspect his father may be involved in something and has returned only for selfish reasons! What starts off as a fun, adventurous fishing trip and a perfect means of bonding with a long absconding father, turns out to be an ultimate test of endurance that would change the brothers' lives forever.....

[img]https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-HsKt5Ccmr1A/TlUrQ7QvLEI/AAAAAAAACAQ/BPjWNpHDr7c/vlcsnap-2011-08-23-21h36m56s243.jpg[/img]

"The Return" manages to grip you from its very first frame. Each scene is intelligently written and drives home important facets of each character; right from that first scene in which some neighbourhood boys are showing off their guts by jumping in a nearby lake from a considerable height. Young Ivan who is scared of heights just sits there and cries as other kids call him "chicken" and move along. It is a pivotal scene, the importance of which, one will only realize later in the film.

There are moments of subtle brilliance all throughout the film like one scene in which, as the father parks his truck near a diner, he ogles at a couple of young ladies passing by through the rearview mirror. The look on Ivan's face is priceless as he catches his father in the act. "The Return" is full of such fine moments and more which are best left for the viewer to find out.

[img]https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-vNU2W0hq0BE/TlUrQhr4drI/AAAAAAAACAM/Lsuaw6pvj3w/vlcsnap-2011-08-23-21h32m51s98.jpg[/img]
"The Return" succeeds with flying colours in the primary departments of Screenplay, Direction, Cinematography and Acting. It is amazing how effortlessly the events unfold on screen and how deftly director Andrei Zvyagintsev handles some of the most challenging scenes in the film. Ten on ten points go out to Mikhail Krichman for his brilliant cinematography. Behold how his camera lovingly captures some of the most picturesque shots of the rain-drenched Russian countryside with colours and clarity one can only dream of! Acting is bravura all throughout but the real hero of the film is the youngest actor Ivan Dobronravov who impresses the most with his outstanding performance. Watch the lad deliver an affecting performance with such ease, it is extremely difficult to even believe that a camera was there and he actually rehearsed all those scenes!

"The Return" may end on a note that may be a tad underwhelming to some for its abruptness as some plot details are withheld and left for the viewer to interpret. But perhaps that is beyond the point. The scope of the film is only clear long after we reach the ending credits, and in the end, after some pondering, we realize that the conclusion is befitting indeed!

9/10 for this Russian gem. Films like "The Return" are hard to come by. Embrace it with open arms!
September 1, 2011
Aditya Gokhale
Aditya Gokhale

Super Reviewer

Andrei Zvyagintsev made a huge leap from TV advertisements to film, this film is a work of art! At times it was like being in a Whistler painting, fantastic! The acting, pace and story are all good too but I have to be honest and say I felt just a little bit cheated at the end! Still, great film!
October 2, 2009
SirPant

Super Reviewer

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