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Movie Review: The Return

Alternate Title: Daddy Dearest or What We Did on Our Family Vacation

Story: This is the feature film debut of 39 year old director Andrey Zvyagintsev and he nails his first effort. It is a brooding, challenging film that is not for every film goer.

Young Ivan and Andrei have not seen their father for 12 years when he suddenly, without explanation walks back into their lives and takes them on a road trip. Questions abound (and are never answered) as the film is seen through the eyes of these young boys and their perspective is vastly different from an adults.

The film is slow paced, ominous, stark, dark and very interesting. The father is strict, punishing, judgmental and unapologetic. The boys are all over the map with their feelings and passions towards this absentee father. This is not the kind of road trip that you would want to take with your family. It is more like 'Survivor' goes Outward Bound.

Acting: The boys are fabulous. Ivan Dobronravov as the younger boy was the stronger of the two and sadly he died in an accident shortly after the film's completion. Vladimir Garin as the older brother grew into his role beautifully.

Predilection: None

Critters: A dog, a few fish and a dead seagull.

Food: This area of Russia is definitely not going to be known for it's cuisine. The food was a bland melange of white boiled potatoes, chicken, unidentified slop and soup.

Visual Art: Not a painting, print or photo in sight. The landscape of the desolate area was bleak and reminded me of several Edward Hopper paintings.

Blatant Product Placement: None.

Soundtrack: Foreboding and at times haunting.

Opening Titles: Stark black and white titles.

Theater Audience: Four guys and me.

Sappy Factor: 0

Quirky Meter: 0

Squirm Scale: The sense of impending doom was somewhat squirmy.

Predictability Level: I was surprised a number of times. I even gasped twice.

Tissue Usage: 0

Oscar Worthy: This film won the grand prize at the Venice film festival but did not get an Oscar nod this year even though it was the Russian entry.

Nit Picking: No nits or niets from me.

Big Screen or Rental: You can easily wait for a rental on this one.

Length: Under two hours.