Out on Friday February 9
Andrey Zvyagintsev’s latest drama is no Russian lark. Colin Firth is terrific in an unbelievable-but-true tale.
Yes, here's this week's new releases. Click on for our reviews of Loveless and The Mercy. Come back in a few days for our thoughts on Fifty Shades Freed and The 15:17 to Paris!
For the best movie reviews, subscribe to Total Film.
Winner of the Jury Prize at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, Andrey Zvyagintsev’s follow-up to Leviathan (2014) paints a bleak picture of moral and spiritual decay in modern Russia. Centred on a young boy’s disappearance amid the acrimonious collapse of his parents’ toxic marriage, Loveless is less interested in ‘where’ the child has gone than ‘why?’
Boris (Alexei Rozin) and Zhenya (Maryana Spivak) are oblivious to the trauma their bitter break-up has caused 12-year-old Alyosha (Matvey Novikov). When he vanishes, the pair begrudgingly cooperate to find their missing son, but the seemingly hopeless search only causes Boris and Zhenya to double down on their mutual hatred.
Populated by loathsome, self-serving characters, and portraying a country in crisis, Loveless has no easy answers. Taking in a variety of stark locations, the procedural-like search for Alyosha is shot with a social-realist eye; the crumbled buildings and brutalist tower blocks are all clinically framed to impersonal perfection.
Zvyagintsev’s message is clear – in a country without empathy, how can its citizens hold on to their humanity? But he overplays his hand with radio reports on apocalyptic Mayan prophecies and political corruption. All the same, this chilly thriller is another highly accomplished feature to add to a formidable body of work.
THE VERDICT: Blue Valentine meets The Killing in this uncompromising critique. It’ll leave you cold (in a good way).
Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev; Starring: Maryana Spivak, Alexei Rozin, Matvey Novikov; Theatrical release: February 9, 2018
Colin Firth guns for a Golden Globe (no, not that kind) in sad and strange biopic of amateur sailor Donald Crowhurst, whose exploits fall squarely into the stranger-than-fiction category. A failed inventor, Crowhurst sets about building a yacht that he’ll use to compete in the 1968 Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, a round-the-world endeavour that’s demanding for even the most seasoned seamen. When he runs into trouble, Crowhurst starts falsifying facts about his progress…
Director James Marsh is known for thrilling doc Man on Wire (2008) and Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything (2014), but The Mercy is an altogether different kind of true story. Initially, all the stiff-upper-lipped facades yield some ironic comedy. But Crowhurst’s desperate, hubristic yearning for recognition at any cost lends the movie a growing poignancy.
David Thewlis is as reliable as ever in a broad-strokes supporting turn as Crowhurst’s none-the-wiser PR man, but Firth and Rachel Weisz (as Crowhurst’s anxious wife) bring a wealth of nuance to characters that could have been parodic on paper. As ambitions threaten to destroy a family, both stars tap reserves of understated, conflicted feeling. The unusual tone won’t suit all tastes, but this is a remarkable story, stylishly told.
THE VERDICT: Firth is terrific in an unbelievable-but-true tale that charts a course from the ridiculous to the profound.
Director: James Marsh; Starring: Colin Firth, Rachel Weisz, David Thewlis, Ken Stott; Theatrical release: February 9, 2018