Elena (Markina) and her distant, older husband Vladimir (Smirnov) live in an elegant Moscow apartment where she attends him at every turn. Sergei (Rozin), her son from a previous marriage, lives with his family in a cramped Soviet-style concrete block and seems uninterested in working to earn his keep. Elena asks Vladimir for money to help Sergei but he refuses, choosing to support his own daughter’s dissolute lifestyle instead. It’s an unwise decision, with serious consequences.
Zvyagintsev’s cool lensing and Philip Glass’s quietly menacing score combine with excellent performances to create a dark, tight psychological thriller. The vastly different circumstances of Vladimir and Sergei reinforce the stark class distinctions inherent in Russian contemporary life, making Elena’s actions less easy to condemn outright; we understand she herself is trapped and a victim. This layered, complex film from Zvyagintsev places him among the best working filmmakers in Russia today.