The Return (Vozvrashcheniye) (2003)

The Return is a Russian movie by Andrei Zvyagintsev, about two brothers, who live with their mother and only know their father from an old photograph. He has come back and is taking them for a 2 day fishing trip. Only it doesn’t turn out that way. During the several phone calls he made during the road trip, he gets one that obligates him to take on a mysterious job for 3 days on some island. At first, he puts the boys on a bus on their way home, but he changes his mind and takes them with him anyway.

The relationship between the boys and the father is not a good one. After several years of absence, that comes as no surprise. He is very harsh with them, especially with the youngest, Ivan, who is more defiant and reluctant in following his father than his brother Andrey is.

It is clear that the two boys see the return of the father differently. They seek his approval, Andrey especially by doing what his father tells him, to show he’s a man. And though in some way Ivan does as well, he is weary of the reason of the return. Because why is the man so hard on them? He is tough and harsh and expects that his sons treat him with the respect of a father, while to Ivan, he is just a man who suddenly says he’s their father.

The defiance of Ivan, especially by manipulating his brother to be disobedient to their father when he puts Andrey in charge while they go off fishing, results in a culminating power struggle of the mind between Ivan and his father. Ivan, though wanting to be a man, reacts like the boy he in fact really is and this leads to a dramatic event.

A very enjoyable movie. Love the camera on this one, the images, and the story (even though it is quite dramatic). Even the music really gives weight to the whole picture.

Only I found out 2 eerie things after reading some info on Wikipedia: well for one, that the director also had a “return” of his absent father when he was 6. I don’t know if the movie is entirely autobiographical (hope not). The second thing is that the young actor who played the eldest son Andrey, Vladimir Garin, drowned not long after shooting ended, in a lake near where the movie’s ending was shot. Gave me goose bumps that one.

You can find a trailer below. It is dubbed in English. I saw the movie in Russian with subtitling. Unfortunately, I did not find any to post here. It was either English or Russian, but none subtitled.

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