In a remote corner of Russia, the lives of two boys ù Ivan, a headstrong 12 year-old, and Andrey, his sensitive older brother - are shattered by the return of their father after a ten-year absence. Ivan is suspicious of the interloper's identity, especial
Forty years after Andrei Tarkovsky became the first Soviet director to win the top prize at the Venice Film Festival (for Ivan's Childhood), his compatriot Zvyagintsev repeated his success with this astonishingly accomplished debut.
The triumph was tainted, however, by the untimely death of 15 year-old star Vladimir Garin shortly after filming, when friends dared him to jump from the top of a tower used to shoot the film's opening sequence ù a tragic case of life literally imitating art.
Garin's performance is just one of the note-perfect elements in The Return - unfussy acting, unhurried direction, sublime cinematography and low-key music - which conspire to draw the audience into a deceptively simple story with numerous hidden depths.
Tarkovsky's influence is evident throughout the film - which also bears peripheral similarities to Daniel Vigne's The Return Of Martin Guerre - but so thorough is Zvyagintsev's command of his characters and the tragic tale which unfolds around them, he emerges from the shadow of his mentor as a fully-fledged master-in-the-making.
Yes. Zvyagintsev's debut film, which manages to be both naturalistic and stylised, is a quiet and disquieting masterpiece which gets under your skin and stays there long after you leave the cinema.