Elena (2011)

ANDREY ZVYAGINTSEV

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5

, 2011. . Screenplay by , Andrey Zvyagintsev. Cinematography by . Produced by , . Music by . Production Design by , , . Costume Design by . Film Editing by

The title character wakes up in her sleekly designed, luxury apartment in the prestigious Khamovniki District of Moscow, makes breakfast for her husband Vladimir and then wakes him up to start his day.

He’s off to the gym and she goes to see her unemployed son Sergey, who lives in a graffiti-covered, run-down cinderblock nightmare with his wife, teenage son Sasha and their newborn child.

Elena gives him money from her pension and then promises she’ll ask her husband about lending them money for Sasha’s college fees, which Vladimir is hesitant to do. He disapproves of his stepson’s lazy attitude towards productivity, but Elena is just as critical about his inability to hold his indulgent, bitter daughter Katya responsible for her own neglect of her father.

These tensions hang in the balance until Vladimir takes seriously ill and Elena, a former nurse, swings into gear to take care of him, a situation which clarifies the future chain of events and what they will mean for her prospects. It leads her to make a decision that the character performs with the same swift, quiet and undetectably smooth skill with which she has been cleaning, shopping and riding trains, all mundane tasks between conversations that, thanks to Andrei Zvyagintsev’s bewitching direction, have a sense of mischievous terror that grows steadily throughout this captivating drama.

The Jeanne Dielman-esque quality of Elena’s performing her tasks is executed with powerful reserve by , whose subtlety has you wondering her next move in every shot, and who commands our sympathy without ever demanding it.

Zvyagintsev’s poignant understanding of the back and forth of dysfunctional relationships prevents him from ever reducing any character to a simple facet of selfishness or greed.

European Film Award Nomination: Best European Actress (Nadezhda Markina)

Toronto International Film Festival: 2011

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