"Elena" is a grim, somber portrait of life in Russia...
Elena is a grim, somber portrait of life in Putin'sRussia, where the haves and have-nots uneasily co-exist. The title character is a drab, 60-something former nurse who's married to the well-off Vladimir, one of her former patients. They live in a well-appointedMoscow apartment and sleep in separate rooms. But when the retiredVladimir feels the need for sex, Elena dares not refuse.
Both spouses have problems with children from earlier marriages.Vladimir's daughter is a hedonist who has little to do with her dad. Elena's freeloading, boozy son and his slovenly family live in a cramped apartment on the fringes of the city, near a nuclear power plant. Asked to lend money so Elena's grandson can bribe his way into college and avoid the army, the old man responds: "I don’t give a flying f - - k".
Vladimirsuffers a heart attack while swimming at his gym, and decides it's time to write a will. It would leave nearly everything to his daughter while providing only a monthly sum to his wife, effectively cutting off her relatives. With little time to waste, Elena comes up with a diabolical plan worthy of Hitchcock.
Nadezhda Markina is splendid as Elena, who speaks little but still manages to make her thoughts and emotions crystal clear. Andrei Zvyagintsev's brooding direction — there is nary a wasted frame — is complemented by Hitchcockian music by Philip Glass.
"New York Post"