Thursday, November 24, 2005

"The Return".

Disclaimer: I don't think I give the plot away of this great movie. But proceed at your own risk.

The Christianity Today movie reviews listed this movie as one of the "10 most redeeming movies of 2004". It is a 2003 Russian movie about what happens when a father, absent from his family for 12 years, returns. The story centers on the relationships between the father and his two sons, the older about 16 and the younger about 13, and the two sons with each other.

Both boys are desperately hungry for a father. They have an old, well thumbed photo of their family hidden in an old trunk, and, at the beginning of the movie, when they learn the father has just returned and they see him asleep, they run to the hiding place and look at it to verify that the man they saw asleep is the man in the old picture. The photo shows the four of them, mother, father, and tiny boys, the 12 year old hardly more than a baby, happily together, a complete family, which must be the storyteller's idea of the best life can offer and with which idea I heartily agree. (This photo is tied to another, similar photo that the boys find at the end of the movie.)

Not long into the movie, the father takes the boys on a fishing trip. The older boy is compliant and submissive but the younger boy is angry about his father's absence, which is explained neither to the boys nor to us, except for hints as the story unfolds. The father must discipline the younger son (who is played by a simply remarkable young actor), and must admonish him even to call him "Dad". That terribly difficult relationship, the newly returned father and the younger son, is the lever that propels the plot. The heart of the movie is the fishing trip, but there is a sequence of photos shown at the very end of the movie which seems to offer hope to a deep, sad narrative.

I don't want to give any more away, but I will say that it is well worth a view. See the movie with some friends and then reserve some time to discuss it.

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