Finely crafted, Andrei Zvyagnitsev’s The Return (2003) is a film that’s impossible not to admire and get caught up in, but one I’m not at all certain will have much in the way of long-term staying power. It’s a dour, somewhat creepy tale concerning two boys, Andrei (Vladimir Garin) and Ivan (Ivan Dobronravov), who find themselves involved with the father (Konstantin Lavronenko) who vanished 12 years earlier. The older and needier (Andrei) is taken with the idea, but the younger (Ivan) is sullen and suspicious. The film follows the drama that plays out as the three go on an unsettling holiday. While the story is compelling, it suffers from being both too obvious (the diving tower sequence early on is clearly a set-up) and too determinedly enigmatic. Visually striking, but its greatest value lies in its status as a character study, not in the least because there are fascinating unexplored depths to the father that tantalize more effectively than the apparently central story of the boys.
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