For those loveless couples who have gone through a bitter and acrimonious divorce it’s fair to say that the only winners are the solicitors. They rub their hands with glee as the warring couple escalate their petty squabbles and expensive letters are fired off at the drop of a hat. So while the legal vultures feign concern that their clients best interests are represented by themselves what is foremost in their minds is when their huge fees will enable them to take their next Caribbean holiday.
However the real loser in a divorce is nearly always the child with one spiteful and vindictive parent invariably preventing the other from seeing them. This hate filled parent, and unfortunately it’s usually the mother, uses the lack of access to the child to mentally torture the other and always at the expense of an increasingly upset and distressed child. ‘Loveless’ is the appropriately titled film from Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev detailing a warring couple each wanting a divorce as they each have a new lover.
The difference here is that neither of them want custody of the child. Herein lies the films defining image that as the parents argue that the other should have the child the camera shows their young son hiding behind a door crying his heart out at what he’s heard yet trying to stifle his upset so his parents don’t hear. It is undoubtedly the most upsetting scene we’ve seen in years. It is both brilliantly conceived, superbly executed and stunningly played by Matvey Novikov as their son.
From here the films follow each parent, with his mother Zhenya (Maryana Spivak) , social media obsessed woman glued to her phone as she goes for a night out with her far older lover whilst his father Boris (Aleksey Rozin), a gruff bear of a man, spends a night with his younger and already pregnant lover. Their son is out of the film and audiences mind for a long time as it is for his parents. There’s a creeping sense that they’ve left him on his own with each thinking that the other has him. Knowing that he is unloved by his parents and feeling a burden to both the introverted boy goes missing. It’s no surprise that it takes them two days to realise that he has gone missing and from her the film becomes part procedural / part human drama in the quest for their loveless son.
As shocking as their initial disregard for their son is the police investigation, is shockingly poor and is an eye opener as to just how thorough a British police missing person investigation is especially when it’s upgraded to high risk status. However in Russia it appears that a police search extends little further than contacting the school to see if he’s turned up. Instead it’s left, almost unbelievably, to a missing person charity to carry out a thorough search of nearby woodland and property and to carry out an investigation.
Like the parents the audience is left in the dark as to where and what has or may have happened to their son. It’s a searing indictment on toxic parents in the throes of the battle ground of divorce more concerned about abusing each other than they are with the welfare of the child. This is as bleak as it gets with no, ‘Hey, let’s work together for the benefit of our child’ platitude going on here.
Loveless has rightly been nominated for Best Foreign film at the 2018 Oscars and though overlong is a distressingly powerful film all too real with raw, brutal and upsetting scenes. Be warned.
Here’s the trailer…….