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Elena and Vladimir are an older couple, they come from different backgrounds. Vladimir is a wealthy and cold man, Elena comes from a modest milieu and is a docile wife. They have met late in life and each one has children from previous marriages. Elena's son is unemployed, unable to support his own family and he is constantly asking Elena for money. Vladimir's daughter is a careless young woman who has a distant relationship with her father. A heart attack puts Vladimir in hospital, where he realizes that his remaining time is limited. A brief but somehow tender reunion with his daughter leads him to make an important decision: she will be the only heiress of his wealth. Back home he announces it to Elena. Her hopes to financially help her son suddenly vanish. The shy and submissive housewife then comes up with a plan to give her son and grandchildren a real chance in life. Written by
Cannes Film Festival
The film was originally planned to be made in English under the name "Helen", with Elena, Vladimir and Sergey called Helen, Richard and Dan, respectively. Andrey Zvyagintsev dropped the idea when he realized working with an English producer meant "overcoming the issues of the creative method, of the language of cinema." Soon he proposed the script to Alexander Rodnyansky and the next day after Rodnyansky read it, he phoned Zvyagintsev and said, "Let's start." Zvyagintsev thanked Rodnyansky in a later interview for sharing his views. See more »
Russian screenwriter and director Andrey Zvyagintsev's third feature film succeeding his award-winning feature film debut "The Return" (2003) and "The Banishment" (2007), was written by Oleg Negin and tells the story about Elena, a former nurse who lives with her wealthy husband Vladimir. The middle-aged couple have a good marriage and when Elena's unemployed son Sergey and his wife, who lives nearby, needs financial support, Elena asks her husband to help them. Vladimir is not willing to help her son and when he makes his daughter Katya his sole heiress, their relationship turns cold.
This quietly paced and character-driven drama about a woman who wants to help her son from a previous relationship and a father who wants to help his daughter from a previous relationship, emphasizes the basic struggle for love and how this causes mistrust and distances people from one another. With his precise camera movements, gritty milieu depictions and intimate portrayals of family relations, Andrey Zvyagintsev creates great realism, tension and exceptional scenes of a baby.
This minimalistic study of character is finely photographed by the director's frequent collaborator Mikail Krichman and has a poignant and remarkable instrumental score which creates an efficiently unpredictable atmosphere and reinforces the concentrated narrative structure. A witty, life-affirming and distinctly directed film with prominent and understated acting performances by Russian actresses Nadezhda Markina and Yelena Lyadova, and Russian actor Andrey Smirnov.
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