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The Return (2004)

An amazing foreign film. In league with "Life Is Beautiful".

Overall Grade: A+
Story: A+
Acting: A+
Direction: A
Visuals: A+

Summary: This subtitled Russian film says more with action, facial expressions and subtlety than could ever be said with words. It holds a palpable tension between the power of hope and relationships, and the despair of reality and brokenness. A unique and yet all too familiar story of fathers and sons.

Full Review: It is Russia. In the setting of this ethereal world, we step into the story of two young boys. Ivan (about 12) and Andrei (about 15) are brothers and in many ways typical of young boys in any land- they are growing up, challenging one another, pushing up against peer pressures. They fight, yet are deeply devoted to one another. They love fishing and playing in the water.  For their entire lives, their father has been absent. Only their mother's words and scant pictures hold any image of who he is. Then, one day, he appears. For some reason, he has returned.

The boys are shocked, elated, confused, upset, angry and hopeful. As they cautiously open their lives to this stranger, he takes them on a road trip to go fishing. Young Ivan, exuding distrust and anger at a father who appears with no explanation and no apologies, chafes against his father at every turn of this journey.  Andrei, however, gathers quickly to his father, hoping to find a mentor for his soon-to-be transition into adulthood.

As the trip unfolds, typical conflicts between father and son explode with emotion and back story. The young Ivan Dobronravov (playing a character by his real first name, Ivan) has an amazing ability to create emotion with his expressions. Hope, fear, anger, pain. It is through Ivan that most of the story is told. There is nothing superflous or false about this script. It is painstaking and powerful, but will most likely be shocking nonetheless. The visuals are equally impressive, matching the film with a minimalist and beguiling affect. The dark shades, green and bluish hues remain the pitch of the entire film. This is erie and you don't catch the sense of its power until the film has completed, when you realize its been without any reds or yellows for the entire story.

I will not tell you more about the story and how it plays out. This film is one of the best I've ever seen, and I would unreservedly recommend it to anyone.  It is unrated, since it was never released to theatres in the US, but there is no questionable language or scenes. There is some mild violence and moments of intense emotion.

The understatement in this film is not just that it is a realistic drama, it is contained most poignantly in the use of tragic irony and metaphor. What the heart seeks is to be known and loved by those who matter most. "The Return" is about a father and his sons trying to make the journey towards that realization. You will not be the same after seeing this film.


Amazon DVD Link:


Review by Kim Gentes

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