Murky but deep
|"The Return" is kind of like a dinner guest who's so interesting that you're willing to invite him over even though you know he's going to show up without his pants on.
The story starts with two fatherless brothers in rural northwest Russia — on the day their father mysteriously reappears. After 12 years away, he has come to spend the night with his wife and then take the boys — who have no memory of him and even suspect he's an impostor — on a fishing trip.
Andrei — the older brother, who has learned to fit in with the boys in the neighborhood, partly by joining in the taunting of younger brother Ivan — laps up his dad's attention. Ivan — maybe 10 years old, much softer looking, and never manly enough for his father — remains aloof and suspicious. Huddled in a tent on the first night of their outing, Andrei calls Ivan's wild suspicions stupid. "Wait until he gets his knife out in the middle of the forest," Ivan answers. "Then we'll see who's stupid." One of the many things to ponder about this story is the difference between the two boys — will the alienation that makes Ivan an outcast in the world of schoolboys be what saves them in the harsh world of their dad?
Still, as unresolved a thriller as "The Return" may be, it still works on many levels — as a drama, a mystery, a psychological portrait, even a beautifully filmed ode to life in a deeply picturesque part of the world. Everything from the sky to the trees to the people to the water takes on shades of navy blue, forest green and battleship gray (reminiscent of Oregon, Maine or coastal Canada), matching the dark, seductive mood of the film. View the film as a piece of art, a Hitchcockian thriller, a Lynchian non-sequitur, or a double coming-of-age story — but don't miss it. Different people will see different films in "The Return," but all of these films will tug at the heart and the mind in some way.