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Konstantin Lavronenko plays the long-lost father with just the right mix of strength, mystery and cool understatement -- his character would give many actors an excuse to overplay and draw attention away from the young men portraying the sons, the true centers of the film. The balance he achieves here is a tribute to the care with which he pursues his craft.
The two young actors who play brothers Andrey and Ivan (Vladimir Garin and Ivan Dobronravov, respectively) turn in some of the most believable, moving performances I've ever seen from people their age. The depths of emotion and commitment they give to their roles is extraordinary -- it's a level of quality that is a joy to see in actors of ANY age, but to see it in these who are so young is incredible.
The fact that this is director Zvyagintsev's first feature film tells me that this is indeed a filmmaker to watch -- and I don't think a film of this quality can be written off as 'beginner's luck'. His talent is formidable -- I look forward to seeing more from him.
The story unfolds at just the right pace -- the audience is given no clues as to what will happen next, and is kept is just as much suspense as the characters in the film. The honors this film received at the Venice Film Festival were justified -- I can recommend it without reservation to anyone, whether they favor 'art house' cinema or simply a well-made film telling a compelling story.