Elena (Elena no Madoi)
Director Andrey Zvyagintsev
Language Russian (subtitled in Japanese)
Opens Dec. 20

A Russian friend once defined the Russian temperament with one word: “heavy.” That certainly holds for the characters in “Elena,” an excellent tale of a Russian family struggling to navigate a world defined by Western capitalism and the supposed magical powers afforded by digital technology. A cold, gray Russian sky hangs over the story, in particular the titular character whose face seems permanently set in lines of disappointment.

Elena (Nadezhda Markina, who won a string of best actress awards for the role) is the quietly submissive wife of Vladimir (Andrey Smirnov). They met late in life and married, but now Vladimir treats her like an aging, faithful servant. They both have grown-up children, though Vladimir is estranged from his daughter and Elena must support her son Sergey (Aleksey Rozin) who spends his days playing video games with his own teenage boy.

Though Elena doesn’t see it that way, Sergey is just as bad as Vladimir, driving her to do things that compromise both her morality and her future. No one is looking out for Elena as she becomes desperate to get her hands on Vladimir’s money and help out her son’s family. The sadness is overwhelming.

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