The Return is as haunting as films get, without any regard to your typical thriller or horror film, taking the viewer to unfathomable levels of psychological depth.
A tragic tale set in Russia, the film chronicles the sudden reemergence of a man (Konstantin Lavronenko) who abandoned his wife and two sons twelve years ago for unknown reasons. Andrey (Vladimer Garin) and his younger brother Ivan (Ivan Dobronravov) are approximately 15 and 12, respectively. When their father awakes, he takes them on a trip to a stunning lake in order to, as it initially seems, bond with the children after a twelve-year absence. An attempt at making up for lost times quickly turns sour as young Ivan begins questioning his fathers motives and testing his patience. The struggle quickly turns into a struggle for manhood, revealing the essence of each character until the final frame.
The gorgeous backdrop underscores the conflict between Ivan and his father, as the curious child becomes more suspicious after each night. Andrey is excited to finally meet a person, who had only seen in a single photo, he could call his father, allowing him to finally turn into a man. Simultaneously, Ivans bewilderment arises as his father figure, who was essentially Andrey, begins kissing up to this apparent stranger revealing a weakness he never knew existed before. The conflicts, both internal and external, escalate to a harrowing conclusion that will remain with the viewer long after the film ends.
Compared to your typical Hollywood thriller, The Return is subtle and filled with important thematic elements in every frame. Scene after scene we deal with the groundwork of a powerful effort to define the essence of growing up and how we shape ourselves, whether it is from our parents or our experiences.
Director and co-writer Andrei Zvyagintsev has constructed a masterful film that doesnt stray away from the horror life has to offer. Akin to the struggles the kids are facing, the viewer struggles to discover where this man has been for the past twelve years. Rather than simply answer the question in one sour, lumpy conclusion, Zvyaginstev takes it to the next level by offering various clues and leaving the viewer to decide where he was.
He may be asking for too much from the typical viewer, who may left scratching his or her head, but the craftsmanship placed in every frame oozing with beauty is undeniable. Zvyaginstev takes every opportunity to capture the beauty of nature, whether it be by the lake during sunrise, in the forest at nighttime, or in the middle of an unending body of water in a mid-day storm. Every ongoing action in the background parallels the internal conflicts of the characters, revealing flaws and strengths of each one.
The two young men give stellar performances. Ivan Dobronravov steals the screen with raw emotions that are rarely eve seen in adult actors. Dobronravovs portrayal plays with the emotions of the viewer, especially after Zvyaginstevs impeccable script sets up his lovable character so well. On the other hand, Vladimer Garin gives a stern performance as the caring older brother who only looks for the best in everything. Additionally, Lavronenkos portrayal of the father is absolutely unforgettable. His attempts at being fatherly are so unrefined and intense that the viewer becomes attached to this mysterious character.
The most haunting aspect of the film has nothing to do with the actual film but with the older child actor Garin. He drowned in the lake where the film was shot, two months prior to the films official premiere at the Venice film festival where it won the top prizes. When this fact is in the viewers mind while watching the film, the overall effect is beyond description.
When thinking of the subtitles the viewer must read while watching the film, it may sound tiring. However, that is where the beauty of this wonderful film lies: in the visual aspect. Whether you read the subtitles or not, every murky frame reveals the story. Slowly moving your eyes to the bottom of the screen to comprehend what powerful statement a character just made is not always necessary when his facial expression is exploding with the words.
If you thought The Ring or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake were terrifying, you must redefine fear, because The Return will take you places where few films go, places that will haunt you for years to come.
[left]See people, this is how a love story is meant to be made. Fatih Akin is the most promising director I have had the chance of experiencing since Fernando Meirelles. He knows exactly what he wants out of this film, a sweet, charming love story that you can't turn away from. The characters are brilliant, the performancea are amazing, the dialogue is fresh and witty, the cinematography is superb...what more can you want out of a love story? I recommend this forgotten gem to everyone![/left]
[left]Full Review Later[/left]
[left]An absolutely spell-binding persian film. It is surreal beyond David Lynches Hollywoodized idea of surrealism (yes, taking a shot at the weak Mullholland Dr.). The acting pierces the screen, with gritty realism as we watch one man literally cycling in circles non-stop for 7 days to keep his dying wife alive amid poverty in Iran while his son watches. Each character is developed perfectly, as the son falls in love with a young girl amid all the poverty and comes of age, while other characters deal with their own dilemmas.
Director Mohsen Makhmalbaf manages to play in the themes of greed and class warfare while focusing on the man's plight on the cycle.
The cinematography and lighting combine to create the surreal Iranian desert into an alien planet of corruption and suffering. This film can't be missed.
Coming from an Armenian background, I was biased to enjoy a film with Armenian themes and topics, especially from the opening shots of this film. I was glued to the screen... then after the first 5 minutes, it simply goes downhill and doesn't gain any momentum. Skip this one.
The Road is a dark, touching, and well constructed film that keeps you glued with its beautifully bleak images; it also has amazing performances from father and son. You would imagine that the film is a downer, but it definitely makes you appreciate life that much more. Well worth watching.