Loveless (Nelyubov) is a 2017 Russian film nominated for best Foreign Language Film at the 2018 Oscars. It lost to the Chilean transgender drama A Fantastic Woman. Although I liked the latter, I thought Loveless was deserving of more ‘love’.
It paints a very stark and morbid picture of Russian secular society within the context of a family tragedy. There is no other movie which comes to my mind which portrays more audaciously the harsh reality of the breakdown of family. It really is a scathing indictment of modern parenting.
IMDB Storyline: Still living under the same roof, the Moscow couple of Boris and Zhenya is in the terrible final stages of a bitter divorce. Under those circumstances, as both have already found new partners, the insults pour down like rain in this toxic familial battle zone, always pivoting around the irresolvable and urgent matter of Alyosha’s custody, their 12-year-old only son. Unheard, unloved, and above all, unwanted, the introverted and unhappy boy feels that he is an intolerable burden, however, what his parents don’t know is that he can hear every single word. As a result, when Boris and Zhenya finally realize that Alyosha has been missing for nearly two days, it is already too late. But is this a simple case of a runaway teenager?
This film is difficult to watch because of the despicable characters that populate it. These poor-wretched souls take their misery out on each other over and over. On countless occasions, the characters check the screen of their smartphone. When nobody exchanges a smile or a kind word, digital friendships are better than nothing. They may have once been contented folk and life could return to some semblance of normalcy one day, but we are given no signs of it. Loveless also hints that the society in which they inhabit isn’t exactly blameless in all this, because it is claustrophobic in its nihilism. The bitter emptiness, disconnect and sorrow in this society could be anywhere. Not only in Russia.
My description might make this film sound like a chore to sit through, but it’s a wonderful movie. Loveless carries an absolutely powerful direction and a hauntingly beautiful cinematography. It’s definitely a movie which I doubt you’ll ever forget seeing. It’s fascinating in a morbid kind of way. People who are exhilarated by good film making can leave even a bleak movie on a high if it’s done well, and this is one of those films.