Loveless (film)

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Loveless (film).png
Film poster
Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev
Produced by
Screenplay by
  • Oleg Negin
  • Andrey Zvyagintsev
  • Maryana Spivak
  • Aleksey Rozin
  • Matvey Novikov
  • Marina Vasilyeva
  • Andris Keišs
Music by
  • Evgueni Galperine
  • Sacha Galperine
Cinematography Mikhail Krichman
Edited by Anna Mass
Distributed by
Release date
  • 18 May 2017 (2017-05-18) (Cannes)
  • 1 June 2017 (2017-06-01) (Russia)
Running time
127 minutes
  • Russia
  • France
  • Belgium
  • Germany[2]
Language Russian
Box office $4.5 million[3][4]

Loveless (Russian: Нелюбовь, French: Faute d'amour) is a 2017 tragedy film[a] directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev and co-written with Oleg Negin. The story concerns two separated parents living apart whose affections are long forgotten and whose relationship has become loveless. They are temporarily brought together after their only young child becomes a missing person and they attempt to find him.

The film was shot in Moscow, with international support after the Russian government disapproved of Zvyagintsev's 2014 film Leviathan. Loveless opened to critical acclaim and it won the Jury Prize at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 90th Academy Awards.


In Moscow, at the end of the school day, students are departing on their way home. One twelve-year-old boy, Alyosha (Matvey Novikov), decides to take a path which leads him to walk by a local river in a wooded area just on the outskirts of town. He appears to be in no particular rush to get home. His parents, Zhenya (Maryana Spivak) and Boris (Aleksey Rozin), are in the midst of a divorce, with much animosity toward each other, and Alyosha is caught up in the middle of their bitter fights. His parents are portrayed as having divergent and incompatible personalities, and both have new relationships: Boris with Masha (Marina Vasileva), a young woman who's pregnant with his child; Zhenya with Anton (Andris Keiss), an older and wealthier man with an adult daughter who lives abroad.

One day, Zhenya realizes Alyosha has disappeared from home since the day before, when she came home late at night from a visit with Anton and assumed the boy was sleeping. The police see this as the simple case of a runaway child and expect the boy to return home within a day or two. When Alyosha does not return, a volunteer group specializing in the search for missing persons takes over the case and promptly initiates a thorough procedure to locate the boy. The only relative Alyosha could have sought refuge at is Zhenya's estranged mother, who lives several hours away. Boris and Zhenya's trip to see her not only fails to provide clues to Alyosha's whereabouts, but is punctuated by tension, with both spouses berated by the bitter old woman. On the return trip home, a new fight between Zhenya and Boris escalates to the point that Boris asks her out of the car and abandons her on a rural roadway.

Now the search for Alyosha involves the police again and covers an increasingly wider territory across the town and its surrounding areas. A search of an abandoned building from an old dilapidated city development project that a friend of Alyosha revealed as their usual hideout turns up nothing. Finally, Zhenya and Boris are asked to come to the morgue to identify the remains of a John Doe child whose description matches Alyosha's. Both parents deny that the disfigured child's body is their son's, though the experience proves emotionally traumatic for them as they break down in tears of desperation, with Alyosha still missing.

Some time passes, Boris and Zhenya's apartment has now been sold after their divorce was presumably finalized, and workers begin dismantling wall hangings and appliances in Alyosha's old room. Outside on the streets, missing person posters of Alyosha now canvas the entire neighborhood. More time goes on and now Boris lives with Masha and their infant son, whom he treats coldly. Zhenya in turn moved in with Anton. Both their lives went on, while Alyosha's missing person posters are fading away. The final scene goes back to the wooded path near the river through which Alyosha used to walk home after school; the naked winter tree branches sway slightly against the white sky, showing the strip of tape Alyosha had thrown on top of a tall tree, now the only remaining trace of his past presence in the world.


  • Maryana Spivak (ru) as Zhenya
  • Aleksey Rozin (ru) as Boris
  • Matvey Novikov as Alexey, son of Zhenya and Boris
  • Marina Vasilyeva as Masha
  • Andris Keišs as Anton
  • Sergey Dvoinikov as Ivan
  • Artyom Zhigulin as Kuznetsov
  • Evgeniya Dmitrieva (ru) as stylist
  • Natalia Vinokurova as salon administrator
  • Djan Badmaev as repairman
  • Yanina Hope as girlfriend
  • Maksim Stoyanov as business
  • Aleksey Fateev as coordinator of search and rescue team
  • Denis Tkachev as volunteer in the search party
  • Yuriy Mirontsev as volunteer
  • Oleg Grisevich as volunteer
  • Aleksandr Sergeev as captain
  • Varvara Shmykova as volunteer



Producer Alexander Rodnyansky said the film was envisioned as a reflection "Russian life, Russian society and Russian anguish", but meant to be relatable to other countries.[9] Rodnyansky also said a starting point in the story's conception was a desire to look at a family, and that director and screenwriter Andrey Zvyagintsev started forming the story while visiting the United States in 2015.[10] Zvyagintsev also claimed it as initially an attempt to remake Scenes from a Marriage, the 1973 miniseries by Ingmar Bergman.[11]

While Zvyagintsev claimed not to be very interested in politics, his story reflects his belief that "The modern-day police don't care about people".[12] He chose to start the story in October 2012, because he said that was a point when the Russian people were optimistic about beneficial political reform, ending in disappointment in 2015.[13] The film also includes references to military intervention in Ukraine.[12] Loveless was made with no financial support from the national government, as the Ministry of Culture disapproved of Zvyagintsev's 2014 film Leviathan, about corruption in Russia.[14] Instead, Rodnyansky successfully appealed to wealthy Russian Gleb Fetisov and foreign companies, including Why Not Productions in France and Les Films du Fleuve in Belgium, for finances.[15]


Principal photography began in Summer 2016.[16] The film was shot only in Moscow,[15] on location, in apartments and an unused building to portray the search.[17]

Zvyagintsev, with his cinematographer Mikhail Krichman, employed "harsh lighting" and used a colour scheme with desaturated greys and browns.[11] Zvyagintsev described his direction:

The direction is towards the particular, the accuracy of the recreation of details: that is what allows anyone who watches to appreciate the sense of the work, though the sincerity, the honesty of its approach to human nature. If you try and tackle abstract problems, problems of society or the world as a whole, you’ll never get anything done. You won’t create anything.[11]

Krichman elaborated he aimed for realism in his shots, made with a Arri Alexa digital camera, kept more stationary than its subjects.[17]


Loveless competed for the Palme d'Or in the main competition section at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2017.[18] It was subsequently selected for screenings at the New Zealand International Film Festival in July,[19] and the Sarajevo Film Festival in August.[20] It was selected for screenings in World Cinema section at the IFFK 2017 in December 2017

In Russia, it was released on 1 June 2017, relying on Cannes to build up interest in the film, while seeking theatrical showings before online piracy became widespread.[10] Sony Pictures Classics acquired the North American distribution rights,[21] while Beijing WeYing Technology acquired the Chinese distribution rights[22] and Altitude Film Distribution released it in the United Kingdom.[23]


Critical response

As of 20 April 2018, Loveless has an approval rating of 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 142 reviews, and an average rating of 8.2/10. The website's critical consensus states, "Loveless uses its riveting portrait of a family in crisis to offer thought-provoking commentary on modern life in Russia — and the world beyond its borders".[24] It also has a score of 87 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on 32 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[25]

At Cannes, The Toronto Star's Peter Howell praised it as "masterfully bleak", and endorsed it for the Palme d'Or, and said it was also leading in the critics' polls.[26] On, Ben Kenigsberg predicted it would win the Palme d'Or, calling it "austere and beautiful, leisurely yet compelling".[27] For Variety, Owen Gleiberman assessed it as "compelling and forbidding" and "an ominous, reverberating look" at "the crisis of empathy at the culture’s core" in contemporary Russian society, rather than in its politics.[28] Peter Bradshaw gave it five stars in The Guardian, praising it as a "stark, mysterious and terrifying story".[29] The Hollywood Reporter's Leslie Felperin praised its intensity, avoiding a heavy-handed approach to many issues, including lack of social bond within a more technological society, and how damaging relationships are passed down through family histories.[30] In The Daily Telegraph, Robbie Collin awarded it five stars, hailing it as "pristine and merciless" and compared the ominous prologue to the 1973 Don't Look Now.[31] Eric Kohn gave it three stars in IndieWire, claiming it fell short of Leviathan.[32] On, Emily Yoshida called it "dour" with unlikable characters, and a lack of focus to make a coherent point, and said the positive was that it inspired gratitude in viewers who did not live under Russian President Vladimir Putin's regime.[33]

Following Cannes, Los Angeles Times critic Justin Chang assessed it as "a withering snapshot of contemporary Russian malaise".[34] For The New York Times, Jeannette Catsoulis commented on the atmosphere and suspenseful cinematography.[35] Mike D'Angelo wrote in The A.V. Club that with news stories about the Russian government's hacking following the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Loveless captured how civilians in Russia are also unhappy under its government.[36] Anthony Lane, in a positive review for The New Yorker, noted the bleakness of the film's story line but found it "so much more gripping than grim."[37]


The jury at Cannes awarded it the Jury Prize.[38] When the Russian Oscar Committee was selecting a submission for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, Loveless's political critics campaigned against it, but it remained a frontrunner due to the Jury Prize and positive reception in North America.[13] In September, it was selected as the Russian entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 90th Academy Awards;[39] the Academy shortlisted it for a nomination in December.[40]

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref(s)
Academy Awards 4 March 2018 Best Foreign Language Film Andrey Zvyagintsev Nominated [41]
Asia Pacific Screen Awards 23 November 2017 Best Director Won [42]
Belgian Film Critics Association 7 January 2018 Grand Prix Won [43]
British Academy Film Awards 18 February 2018 Best Film Not in the English Language Nominated [44]
British Independent Film Awards 10 December 2017 Best Foreign Independent Film Nominated [45]
Camerimage 11—18 November 2017 Silver Frog Mikhail Krichman Won [46]
Cannes Film Festival 17—28 May 2017 Jury Prize Andrey Zvyagintsev Won [38]
César Awards 2 March 2018 Best Foreign Film Won [47]
Chicago Film Critics Association 12 December 2017 Best Foreign Language Film Nominated [48]
European Film Awards 9 December 2017 Best Film Nominated [49]
Best Director Nominated
Best Screenwriter Oleg Negin, Andrey Zvyagintsev Nominated
Best Cinematographer Mikhail Krichman Won [50]
Best Composer Evgueni and Sacha Galperine Won
University Award Andrey Zvyagintsev Nominated [51]
Golden Globes 7 January 2018 Best Foreign Language Film Nominated [52]
Independent Spirit Awards 3 March 2018 Best International Film Nominated [53]
International Adana Film Festival 30 September 2017 Best International Film Won [54]
London Film Critics' Circle 28 January 2018 Foreign Language Film of the Year Nominated [55]
Film of the Year Nominated
London Film Festival 2017 Best Film Won [7]
Los Angeles Film Critics Association 3 December 2017 Best Foreign Language Film Won[b] [56]
Magritte Awards 3 February 2018 Best Foreign Film in Coproduction Loveless Nominated [57]
Munich International Film Festival 2017 Best International Film Andrey Zvyagintsev Won [58]
National Board of Review 28 November 2017 Top Five Foreign Language Films Won [59]
Satellite Awards 10 February 2018 Best Foreign Language Film Nominated [60]
Toronto Film Critics Association 10 December 2017 Best Foreign Language Film Runner-up [61]
Zagreb Film Festival 2017 Together Again Best Film Won [62]

See also


  1. ^ Examples:
    • Chu: "Although the film concentrated on the intimate story of one family in Russia, it felt like a universal tragedy, one that we recognized as one of the world's great sadnesses."[5]
    • Nayman: "Loveless takes a symbolic hammer to a family tragedy".[6]
    • Ritman: "Loveless, Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev's poetry tragedy that first bowed in Cannes, has won the best film award in the BFI London Film Festival's official competition."[7]
    • Scharres: "It’s a stately and mournful tragedy about a runaway child, full of procedural details that build a quiet and open-ended suspense".[8]
  2. ^ Shared with BPM (Beats Per Minute) by Robin Campillo.


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  3. ^ "Loveless". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved 10 November 2017. 
  4. ^ "Nelyubov". The Numbers. Nash Information Services. Retrieved 10 November 2017. 
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