Review: ‘Elena’ (M) ??? ½

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ELENA (Nadezhda Markina) is tall, physically imposing, her otherwise unremarkable features lighting up whenever she smiles (which isn’t often).

Her unemployed son has two children, a layabout nogoodnik adolescent boy, a babe in arms and another on the way. Two years ago, Elena married businessman Vladimir (Andrey Smirnov) whose daughter sees Elena’s presence as threatening her expectations for the distribution of his estate.

Some might object to the leisurely pace at which director Andrei Svyagintszev initially drives the film, but thoughtful consideration would perceive pace to be an important element of Oleg Nagin’s screenplay.

In middle age, Elena and Vladimir are passing their remaining years with scant passion or emotional sustenance. In their comfortable modern Moscow apartment, their interests don’t extend beyond passing the time.

While Vladimir`s heart attack in the gymnasium pool does not accelerate the narrative’s pace, it shifts the plot’s intensity up a gear, bringing the realisation that to this point, the film’s been an invitation to get inside Elena’s head.

Watching her making a snap decision about a difficult choice is scary. The evidence is clear on the screen for careful observers to discover in two brief glimpses, one black and white, the other blue, which, combined with the back story, reveal the film as a tense thriller that had the hairs standing on the back of my neck.

At Greater Union

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Dougal Macdonald
“CityNews” film reviewer

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