Reviewing Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Elena yesterday naturally got me pondering the filmmaker’s two previous films — the first of which, The Return, is a real stunner. It follows two young boys that become suddenly reunited with their long-absent father, who shows up unannounced and quickly whisks them away on a test-of-manhood road-trip. Tragically, the older of the two young boys, Vladimir Garin, passed away only a day before The Return was released in its home country of Russia. That he died from a freak-drowning accident is doubly disturbing when considering how often his character is seen in an aquatic climate, either fishing with his brother (played by Ivan Dobronravov) or steering a boat through stormy waters.
With all of that crushing drama to consider, however, it’s weird that the first thing that came to mind when thinking back on The Return was how much Garin resembles Benh Zeitlin, the 29-year-old co-writer and director of the year’s indie sensation, Beasts of the Southern Wild. Perhaps it’s my far-from-20/20 vision clouding my judgement, but I drew an instant connection between the two, and it feels like it’s going to stick for some time. Do let me know if I’m seeing things.