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In a Russian coastal town, Kolya is forced to fight the corrupt mayor when he is told that his house will be demolished. He recruits a lawyer friend to help, but the man's arrival brings further misfortune for Kolya and his family.
Dima Nikitin is an ordinary honest plumber who suddenly decides to face the corrupt system of local politics in order to save the lives of 800 inhabitants of an old dormitory, which is about to collapse.
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 »
The beautiful camera-work is not enough to redeem this utterly banal and empty story. The underlying message raises the old question of utilitarianism: is the happiness of the many more important than the wealth of a few? This is as deep as it gets and disappointment awaits at the end - is that all?
The main character's motivations are not entirely convincing. The only interesting character is the rich man's rebellious daughter. The rest are pawns in a mundane play full of tediously and pointlessly protracted scenes of everyday life.
Philip Glass returns with his equally banal and repetitive music, a five-minute repetition of one short motif.
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