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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 23 July 2017
great actors - however without looking -- it was male produced and directed. (A woman producer would have directed this film much different Lots of sad bits and lots of frustration and a sorrowful ending.Russian people seem to be a little harder than us Westerners. A pitiful story, but acted extremely well esp by the youngest boy. I have given it 5 stars, as much psychology in it - and an energy to get into the minds of the family. A film one will be captivated by.
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on 9 October 2008
Quite disturbing in places and emotionally bleak and harsh. A film about relationships, secrets, young dreams and expectations: dreams that get shattered on the return of the father after 12 years of absence. And as much as you come to fully understand the almost minimalist plot, you never know the whole secret: what's in the box? You don't really need to know. Acted brilliantly, use of colours and angles and soundtrack is superb; some say a weak storyline but I disagree.. there's nothing weak about this. I felt cold the whole time I was watching it, like the cinematography and the storyline somehow gets into you and makes you want to run home. Top film!
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on 1 September 2007
This is an emotionally draining film aggravated by the real tragedy as one of the boys (Vladimr Garin) drowned in the lake on the outskirts of St. Petersburg just after the film was released. This film raises an issue of single parenthood and shows all the anguish and pain that children without a father have to go through. The film starts with a sudden reappearance of a father who next day takes both his sons on a camping trip which could have changed their lives for better but for the drastic accident.

Although many have indicated that this film is about the father-son relationship, I think it is also about the relationship between the two brothers who have grown up without any male influence. While being depressingly vulnerable and unconfident the boys prove to be independent beyond their age.

Great if very sad...
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on 30 December 2015
Excellent film, keeps you guessing, but the finish a bit enigmatic.
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on 10 August 2008
A very fine first film by Russian director Andrei Zvyagyntsev. A pair of boys (a teenager and his younger brother) live with their mother in a decrepit town in northwestern Russia. Suddenly, their absent father returns (a rude and authoritarian figure, who it is suggested, has been a military pilot) and brings them to a mysterious island for what is presumably a fishing trip. But, as it turns out, in the island a treasure is buried, perhaps from a burglary from which the father might be connected. The older brother adores his father, while the younger one loathes him. The father becomes growingly brutal, and as the movie suspense increases, everything points out to a final tragedy. Fine performances by everybody, but specially the boys (sadly, after the movie was shot, the actor playing the older brother die in the lake shown in the movie, in a scene eerily reminiscent of one portrayed in the film). The Christian symbolism is sometimes a bit heavy handed (with the father being a sort of devious Jesus figure), but otherwise this is a very fine movie.
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on 14 April 2010
This movie is absolutely astounding in terms of style, content, plot, and acting quality. When I watched it for the first time, I was unable to switch my mind away from it for days afterwards, as the film raises more questions than it answers. To me, this has always been a sign of an outstanding film. A good film will keep you highly entertained, but an outstanding film will have you thinking and asking questions well after the film has finished rolling. I absolutely loved it.

In brief, the story is about two adolescent boys who come home one day to find that the father who has been absent from their lives for 12 years has now returned and wants to take them on a trip for a few days. During the course of this trip, the father demonstrates a harsh, distant, and tough method of parenting, and makes the father/son bonding process a difficult and awkward one. He is forever trying to teach them to be tougher, more manly, and more independent. He rarely engages in any real conversation with them, instead preferring to bark orders at them or brood silently. This kind of parenting is completely confusing and difficult for the boys to respond to and understand. Andrey, the older of the two, is so eager to please his father and tries to do everything he is taught in an attempt to win his father's approval. Ivan, the younger of the two, is more suspicious and resentful of his father, and is generally unco-operative and unresponsive towards him. With the beautiful backdrop of a bleak Russian landscape, we observe these relationships developing over the course of about a week, and there are a few twists and turns in the plot which provoke many questions for us as viewers.

Some will inevitably criticise The Return for being 'confusing' and 'without any real conclusion'. However, I would argue that in the case of this film, it is the unanswered questions which make it so beautiful and wonderful. One of the first things we want to ask is 'Why did the father return after 12 years absence? Has he been in jail? Has he been working away? Did he abandon them as small children?'

Next we want to ask 'What are his motives with these children? Does he want to get to know them and love them? Or is he taking them on a trip out of some sense of duty? Or is there some other, more sinister reason?'

Constantly we are asking the questions 'is there some love hidden somewhere between these people? Is their relationship so hard because they dont know how to relate to each other?'

There are so many questions like this which will occupy your thoughts long after the film is finished. These questions are never answered fully. They are open to interpretation. We dont NEED to be told the answers, because what makes the film so wonderful is the way it makes us NEED to ask questions.
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on 17 January 2008
What if you hadn't seen your father in twelve years, and one day you came home, and your mom said that he was sleeping in the bedrooom?
That's exactly what happens to the two young brothers, Andrey and Ivan, when the mysterious man, just arrived, who claims to be their father, decides to take them on a fishing trip for bonding time.

As the movie progresses, it is evident to both the movie viewer and the brothers that something isn't quite right. Every once in a while, the father turns around and just seems to do something absolutely strange, from a violent outburst causing his motives to be questioned to moments of a possible attempt at actually spending time with his sons.

Both of the brothers experience separate reactions. The older one trusts his father, while the younger is reluctant, which often causes strife between them.

Haunting, disturbing, and in some ways sad, The Return, is more of a slow and thoughtful film to be appreciated for its subtleties. Each part is acted quite well. The characters are believable and made real through the their hardships and obvious uncertainties. I think the thing that makes The Return such a special movie is the relationship between each separate person and seeing how they treat one another.

It's fun trying to figure out whether or not the father really is good or bad; although, a warning beforehand, a few things are left for you to form your own opinion about. Perhaps that is what the director wanted, and it doesn't harm the film, might even make the ending more effective and powerful; so keep an open mind and don't be disappointed. This isn't like American movies where every loose end has to be tied up at the close, however messy or unbelievable.
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on 3 April 2006
After the first minute all doubts are gone. What you have here is a real film. Scene by scene.

The subject matter is fatherhood, or lack of. Trying desperately to find out what it is when you ain't had it. The kids are wondering. The adults too. And in steps the humanity of the project, whispering through your heart and tickling your intellect. If you find it all ambiguous that's because we are ambiguous. There is no straight forward answer.

And, afterwards, if you want confirmation of the film's worth, simply watch the 'making of': a cast of dedicated professionals risking and working passionately at their craft.

Bogdan Tiganov - author of The Wooden Tongue Speaks- Romanians: Contradictions & Realities
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on 11 March 2006
...from the heart of (first-time!) director Andrey Zvyagintsev to the soul of the viewer, that is. This film is nothing short of amazing. The story is moving, believable and deep on both psychological and emotional levels -- the cinematography, writing and pacing are right on target -- and the acting is as close to perfect as either a director OR audience can imagine.
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.
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on 26 September 2005
I read some of the reviews of this film and felt I needed to adjust the balance slightly, I couldn't believe that no one had given it five stars. This film is very special indeed. It has to be the best thing I've seen in a long time. I don't think it's a slow film at all but I guess if you have a short attention span you will not feel the same. You can almost imagine it being some old Russian fable updated. The two young boys are astounding, the younger of the two should have got an Oscar, he was that good. It looks ike a Tarkovsky movie, which is high praise indeed, with a story that is more accesible for commercial tastes. Sadly the actor who played the older brother drowned tragically in an area where the film was made, it was a haunting enough movie before that. I really can't praise this film enough, I urge anyone with good taste in world cinema and cinema in general to see this modern masterpiece.
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