and 5/5, 2004
case youre tinkering with the radio dial, let me say quickly
that "The Return" is a great movie and you should
rush to see it. Its playing at The Nickelodeon in downtown
Santa Cruz, and if you dont see it this week, youll
have to wait for the video.
Like so many fine movies made on small or moderate budgets,
this movie doesnt have ten million bucks for promotional
purposes. It probably didnt cost half that much to make
this artistically huge film. So, this is a movie that will achieve
its renown over time. But, if you can, see it on the big screen,
this week, because part of its brilliance is the spare but creative
cinematography of a starkly beautiful landscape, some of which
will be lost on the small screen.
"The Return" is a Russian film set vaguely in the
present. It wears many hats. It could be described as a road
trip, a psychological thriller, a mystery, a coming of age story
film about the unending complexity of the relationship between
fathers and sons.
Director, Andrey Zvyagintsev, whose name I will not attempt
to pronounce again, introduces us first to two brothers, who
are probably about thirteen and fifteen years old.
We learn, in a remarkable opening scene, that the youngest brother,
Vanya, is afraid of heights, and that hes a very strong
willed boy. And in the same scene, we learn that his brother,
Andrey, like many an older brother, is more eager to appease
and please. In a subsequent scene, Vanya is so upset at his
older brothers refusal to stand up for him that he attacks
Andrey while their mates watch. Andreys solution is to
challenge Vanya to a race back to their home. This is an opportunity
for the camera to give us many glimpses of the shop worn port
town they live in. Andreys logic is to burn off some of
his brothers passionate anger in the foot race. But we
get the sense that Vanya would die before surrendering any of
it. Breathlessly they arrive home at almost the same time. Before
they can argue their cases to their mother, she tells them to
be quiet because their father is sleeping.
This is big news, the biggest, because the father has been gone
for twelve years, without ever having been in touch with his
sons. They go to the bedroom door and look in. Then they race
to the attic, flip through a book of biblical figures and find,
nestled against a portrait of Abraham, about to slay his son,
an old family photograph. Yes, thats
definitely him, Vanya says.
And thus begins a reunion that unfolds over the course of a
week. Vanya, the skeptic, Andrey, the older brother, who is
eager to please, and the mysterious father set off on a fishing
trip. What they catch, literally and metaphorically, I will
I will say that the journey is intense, sometimes brutal, psychologically
and physically, and always fascinating. If you like your drama
tied up in a neat bundle, this isnt your type of film.
If you can tolerate ambiguity and unanswered questions, theres
a good chance youll love "The Return". The acting
is uniformly wonderful. The writing is excellent and I cant
remember better camera work than this. If the script werent
so good, Id suggest you watch the movie with ear plugs.
I loved this film. Ill probably return to "The Return"
many times. I think you may well want to, also. Again, this
film is playing at The Nickelodeon, in downtown Santa Cruz and
will probably be gone by the weekend. I urge you not to miss
For KUSPs Film Gang, this is Dennis Morton.