Thursday, April 4, 2013

E is for Elena


Russia, 2011
Running Length: 109 minutes
Cast: Andrey Smirnov, Nadezhda Markina, Elena Lyadova, Alexi Rozin, Igor Ogurtsov
Director:  Andrey Zvyagintsev
Screenplay: Oleg Negin, Zvyagintsev
Cinematography: Mikhail Krichman

Winner of the Un Certain Regard prize at Cannes 2011, this compelling family drama offers a stark portrayal of capitalist Russia.

Elena and Vladimir married late in life.  Both have adult children from previous marriages.  They are from very different financial backgrounds and as the marriage continues, this begins causing friction.  Elena’s son is unemployed and unable to take care of his family.  His constant pleas for money are causing Elena angst because it’s Vladimir who has the money and he begrudges having to spend it on someone he feels has nothing to do with him.

When Vladimir has a heart attack, he re-evaluates his life and reconnects with the daughter he hasn’t been close to for years.  When he decides to rewrite his will to make Katya the beneficiary, Elena fears for her own future and that of her son and decides to take matters into her own hands.

There are numerous moral questions raised by this film, but the filmmakers choose not to pursue the consequences of the characters’ decisions.  Yet there is deep compassion for the characters and an understanding of the often irrational and unpredictable nature human interactions.

The performances are natural and beautifully subtle.  As Elena, Markina is particularly fine.  This is not a simple film and it offers nothing in the way of pat solutions or tidy resolutions.  And it’s this that makes it so edgy and riveting.

1 comment:

  1. I see this sort of story on true crime documentaries, and someone always ends up dead. Even creepier are the entitled kids who kill their rich parents out of greed. But I'm sure your movie was more subtle and deep than that!
    Great review! :-)