Film Review – The Return
This Russian movie was recommended to me by a friend who likes his plots simple and direct and moving. This movie has all of these things and, despite not being all that uplifting, has even MORE than just these things. It’s about two brothers who arrive home to find their father has returned from a 12-year abandonment. They go on a fishing trip and things don’t turn out like the boys expected.
The movie starts with a group of boys jumping off a tower into the water. It’s a long way down and they all agree that if someone uses the ladder to climb down, they’re a chicken. The youngest boy, Ivan, can’t make the jump so he simply stays at the top until his mother eventually shows up. Ivan meets up with his friends who razz him because he was too scared to jump. His brother also calls him a coward and Ivan dukes him in the mouth. They then race home on foot through their small city to be the first to tell their mother on the other one. Their mother is outside and tells them their father is asleep.
They haven’t seen their father in 12 years, when he walked out on the family. There is no explanation as to why he’s returned, nor what he wants. The boys are a little leery about it, but Andrei does his best to buddy up with his father, while Ivan, extremely stubborn, does everything he can to make his dad’s life miserable. They decide to go on a short fishing trip which turns into more than any of them bargained for.
Along the way, the new dad tries to see what kind of men his kids are going to grow into. He berates them, hits them, and is generally just mean to them. However, he teaches them all kinds of street/camping/living skills along the way, so it’s not all bad. The dad is no a mission to do something, and he ever divulges what that is to the boys. They end up taking a repaired boat to an island where the dad has buried something in a small burned out house. He retrieves it from the ground and brings it back to their camp. Then things get weird.
Ivan, the stubborn one, is really upset with how he’s being treated and constantly mocks his older brother for kissing up to this guy they don’t even know if it is their father. The boys are constantly scuffling, but they seem to end up fishing and things are fine. Most of the time.
I won’t ruin the ending of this film, because it wasn’t how I expected it to end up. As I said, it’s simple, but it’s also intense. For me, the best part about this film was the scenery and camera shots. The shots of life in the city are dark, drab, and muted. Very grim and very well filtered (or whatever the director did to the shots). However, all of the ocean shots, and grassy plains shots, and the forest shots are simply brilliant. Extremely vivid colors and contrasts. This movie makes me wish I had seen it on the big screen. The copy I watched was letterbox, so you got a good perspective, but it really is visually awe-inspiring.
The movie itself goes from intense to dragging, but very appropriately, depending on the scene at the moment. It isn’t dull, but the pacing of the film is well-done. It shows boys being boys and a gruff father trying to toughen up his boys. There are some aspects of the film that are left completely unresolved, so you’ll have to deal with that. But in my own head, this allows the viewer to make up whatever he or she wants it to be. The storyteller isn’t just going to give you all of the details – he’s going to bring you in and let your imagination help you through some of it. Very well done foreign film. I’m glad I saw it.
(3 out of 5 fus)