Category Archives: World Cinema

Loveless

Loveless (2017)

Directed by: Andrey Zvyagintsev
Starring: Maryana SpivakAleksey RozinMatvey Novikov

IMDB Synopsis

A couple going through a divorce must team up to find their son who has disappeared during one of their bitter arguments.

*Minor spoilers*

Fuck me. This movie was so enthralling, so bleak and so genuinely moving that it’s taken me until now to properly unpack it. I went on a whim late one evening and sat between two old ladies, one of whom spent most of the show with her head on my shoulder. (So she could read the subtitles she claimed but I’m not convinced – I do give great shoulder).

Alexey (Novikov) is caught between two warring parents and things are far from great. Virtually invisible, he gets to listen to Zhenya and Boris (Spivak and Rozin) argue about who gets to take him when they finally sell their apartment and split for good. That is, Zhenya doesn’t want custody and neither does Boris.

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Both parents have already started to move on. Zhenya has been dating a wealthy older man, while Boris has already impregnated the lovely Masha (Marina Vasileva). While he has to keep his rocky marital status to himself at work, due to a devoutly Christian boss with an idealistic attitude to family life, he splits his time between Masha and her mother’s apartment and the sofa at ‘home’. 

This all means that Alexey is largely ignored and one day, he just doesn’t come home. This forces the parents to come together again to find him, which will prove difficult since they don’t seem to know him at all. The film focuses on our two leads as they battle to put their past and their differences behind them to locate their only son before it’s too late. How the hell will this pan out?

Loveless is so devastating, genuinely with plenty of truly cutting dialogue. Young and beautiful Zhenya violently resents her soon-to-be-ex husband Boris and in turn, regrets ever having Alexey. She has a wicked way with words and doesn’t mince them. Will she live to regret her scathing language when it comes to her son?

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Technically, this film is breathtaking – with lots of sweeping shots of a frozen urban landscape, it feels cold and bleak. Perfect for a film this sad. And in the search for Alexey we get to explore abandoned buildings and forest floors for clues, which is right up my street.

Will we find Alexey? Well, one things for sure – you’ll be tsking at the utter selfishness of his parents whilst sort of sympathising and feeling conflicted about that. I recommend this film hard but it’s no fairy tale, believe.

My Rating

4.5/5.

A Fantastic Woman

A Fantastic Woman (2017)

Directed by: Sebastián Lelio
Starring: Daniela Vega, Francisco Reyes

IMDB Synopsis

Marina, a transsexual woman who works as waitress who moonlights as a nightclub singer, is bowled over by the death of her older boyfriend.

*Mild Spoilers*

When Marina’s (Vega) older lover passes away suddenly, she finds she has more than just grief to contend with. People are mostly unsympathetic to her suffering given the ‘nature’ of the relationship and are shits about everything, from kicking her out of the home she knows to leaving her out of the funeral plans.

While Marina holds down her waitressing job and gets on with life as best she can, she is needled by the behaviour of Orlando’s ex-wife and family, who want her out of the picture as soon as possible. While there is some empathy shown by Orlando’s brother, Gabo (Luis Gnecco), he doesn’t rail against the others enough to make things easier for our heroine.

When supposed assistance comes in the form of a female police officer, things still do not change and Marina is put in a very vulnerable situation indeed. In the meantime, she’s found a mysterious locker key in Orlando’s car that is causing her minor intrigue. Maybe it holds a secret?

Vega is incredible in the role and it isn’t hard to understand why this is up for the Best Film in a Foreign Language Academy Award. But, while it is very moving, the films starts slowly. Marina walks around a lot.

The film’s strength is in the hands of its lead, who is mesmerising to watch, even when stomping around the city. Marina has a quiet strength that guides her through all the turmoil but she is not unaffected, simply resigned to an unacceptable attitude towards who she is. She is subjected to humiliation on a regular basis, forced to shield herself from the shouted insults of bigots – and treated like a second class citizen, just for loving someone.

What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. ~ Marina Vidal

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A Fantastic Woman is prone to flights of fancy, which work well in contrast to the more ordinary scenes of Marina at work or, yes, walking about. I personally found myself roused by the more surreal moments, including a very simplistic wander through the city against an increasingly strong wind. Marina finds herself braced against the strength of the gale, symbolic, non?

There’s also a stunning scene in the club where Marina does a dance number with a horde of backing dancers. The effect is beautiful and powerful. I’m here always for a jolt of unreality to shake things up.

This film is a tragedy but it’s also hopeful. Marina doesn’t back down where some of us might and she realises being able to say goodbye to a loved one is a human right. Why should she go quietly anyway – or feel any shame for making her lover happy before his death? Or, for that matter, for who she is?

What she goes through seriously sucks but you can’t keep a good woman down for long.

My Rating

3.5/5.