13 June 2018



This is an absolute knockout of a film. It blew me away. It's about pretty much my favourite subject in a non-horror film, marital discord and relationship dissatisfaction, and these relationships are some of the most dysfunctional you'll have ever seen in the cinema.

Set in Russia in modern times against a background of Ukrainian unrest, it concerns the breakdown of Zhenya and Boris's marriage. Both in their thirties, they got married when Zhenya got pregnant with their now twelve-year-old son, Alyosha. Boris was all for the marriage although he had to persuade Zhenya that it was the right thing to do.

Zhenya was having poison poured into her ear at the time by her mother, one of the most unpleasant mothers I've ever come across in a film, about how a husband and child would weigh her down, hold her back, prevent her from making anything of herself.

Now Alyosha is twelve and desperately unhappy, Zhenya manages a beauty salon, Boris works in an office and the marriage has shattered into a million pieces. There's nothing left between the pair but acrimony verging on real hatred.

They're both in new relationships and divorcing each other, but they're in that shitty place where they have to stay living together until they can sell their apartment and split the proceeds, the proceeds they need to go their separate ways.

They have an outwardly perfect-looking life. Their apartment is fabulous, they have all the mod cons and Zhenya spends most of her time on her phone or beautifying herself. They both live lives that seem very self-centred to the viewer, and yet most of us spend our lives on our phones or at the gym or beauty salon working on our appearances and outer selves.

I guess the pity of it is that we don't work hard enough on our inner selves. Zhenya is positively foul, openly and loudly, to Boris and Boris is cold and unresponsive in return. Neither of them seems to notice that the rows and acrimony are tearing little twelve-year-old Alyosha (he looks much younger) apart on the inside.

They don't trouble to lower their voices during rows or wait until the blonde-haired boy is out of the apartment. Zhenya as a mother, making no secret of the fact that she never wanted him, is cold and brusque towards the lad and both parents even have a horrible row while he's in earshot about which of them will take him in the divorce, as neither of them wants him. It's enough to make your blood run cold. They're even talking about putting him in an orphanage, for Jesus Christs' sake. What a vile pair.

Boris is in a new relationship with a much younger woman called Masha who's already nearly fully pregnant by him. Way to jump the gun and rush into things, Boris. You've already got one severely f**ked-up child due to your nonsense. Why not quickly add yet another child into the toxic mix? That'll fix things real good.

Zhenya is sleeping with a rich older man with a fabulous apartment and a bed that's raised-up on a marble plinth. Although he has a grown-up daughter whom he clearly adores, she's off at university and so there are no sticky-fingered, whiny little brats running around his flat messing up Zhenya's sex on a marble-plinthed bed. God, she's a selfish woman. She'd genuinely rather have her fanny waxed than spend time with her only child.

One day, after a period of nearly two whole days during which neither parent, incredibly, bothers to check up on whether Alyosha is alive or dead, in the apartment or at school, the boy goes suddenly missing. The last that's seen of him is when he's spied running out of school on the CCTV cameras.

The parents are relatively unconcerned initially. Then it becomes unclear that Alyosha is not likely to walk back into the apartment under his own steam. The police can only devote a
nominal amount of time to looking for the boy so a scarily efficient outfit made up of volunteers called the Search-and-Rescue team, which has obviously done this type of thing many times before, come into the picture.

They are terrifyingly good at what they do. Their search leads them to a fabulous old abandoned building in the snow-filled woods, but then to a dead end. I adore looking at online pictures of abandoned buildings (it's called abandoned buildings porn, lol!) and I hugely approve of the film-makers' choice of location here.

Meanwhile, the pregnant Masha is whinging at Boris to spend more time with her ('When will all this be over?' she asks him of the missing-boy business, as if he could answer that with: 'Oh, a week on Tuesday, love...!') and Zhenya is still determined to cling onto her rich older lover, who has the (virtually) child-free existence she's always thought she craved. Then, one day, the parents get a call to come down to the morgue...

This sexy, sex-and-nudity-filled film (that woke you lot up, didn't it, lol!) is the best one I've seen so far for showing us how much our precious modern technology (our phones, laptops, selfies, social media, etc.) has actually disconnected us from each other. Far from bringing us together, we spend our days on Facebook and other social media and it's made us shrink from human contact.

Here's an example from my 'real' life. The other day, a friend phoned me on my mobile and I cut off the call after staring at the screen for a second in near-panic. Why's she calling me, I wondered frantically, and what the hell does she want that she can't tell me about in a Facebook message or an email?

She left me a voice message and, a few hours later, I texted back (rather than calling) that I'd been really, really busy and we'd catch up 'soon.' I still haven't done anything at all about contacting her, much less meeting up with her for a chat and a catch-up. See what I mean?

The easiness and handiness of social media has made us fear a more direct contact with each other. First landlines and mobile phone calls went out the window, and I could seriously see texting going the same way. It's too direct. Facebook messages give us the freedom to be at several removes from the people who want to be close to us. It keeps us safe from a closeness we now seem to fear, rather than crave.

Anyway, it's been fun catching up with you guys but I have to be toddling off now. I'll call you. Or rather, I'll message you. On Facebook. naturally. And I can pretend for several days, if I so wish, that I haven't seen your response. That totally lets me off the hook.

Or maybe I'll wait for you to contact me. On Facebook, of course. Not on my mobile. Yes, I do still have one but, um, I don't think you can send a text on it. It's, like, one of those fancy, new-fangled old-fashioned retro-style ones with no features at all...

LOVELESS is the fifth feature film from Andrey Zvyagintsev, who previously won a Golden Globe and the Best Screenplay prize at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival for LEVIATHAN. Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2018 Academy Awards, BAFTAs and Golden Globes, LOVELESS won Best Film at the 2017 BFI London Film Festival and the Jury Prize at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival.


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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