The Return (Возвращение) is a 2003 Russian drama, one of the most globally famous among recent-ish Russian art films.
The film tells the story of two young brothers, Andrey and Ivan, whose father unexpectedly appears in their lives. The brothers have barely even met their father before this—they know him only from a single old photograph. The father takes his sons away from their city and to an abandoned island, where their natures are tested over and over again. Over the course of the week over which the film takes place, the boys come to worship their capricious father, but in the end their lives are irremediably changed among the Russian wilderness.
The film got ridiculously high ratings from critics all over the world, and even from audiences. It also swept awards season both in Russia and among film festivals, winning Best Film or its equivalent at the Golden Eagles, the Nika, and the Venice Film Festival as well as a handful of other awards. The New York Times called the film “stunning” and compared its debut director, Andrey Zvyagintsev (Андрей Звягинцев), to legendary Russian director Tarkovsky. A reviewer at Ruskino called the film “a return of domestic film to the international level,” evoking its title.
Andrey Zvyagintsev was hailed as a new discovery (though he had previously acted in several films) and has since made a handful of well-regarded films, including 2011’s Elena (Елена). Yet a sad coda to the filming of The Return is that Vladimir Garin (Владимир Гарин), who played the older brother, Andrey, drowned two months before the film’s premiere.
Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev (Андрей Звягинцев)
Stars: Vladimir Garin (Владимир Гарин), Ivan Dobronravov (Иван Добронравов), Konstantin Lavronenko (Константин Лавроненко), Natalya Vdovina (Наталья Вдовина), Galina Popova (Галина Попова)
Production company: Ren Film
Box office take: $550,000 in Russia; $4 million worldwide