Andrey Zvyagintsev’s celebrated feature-length debut is a story about two brothers who must decide whether to trust the stranger who suddenly arrives in their home claiming to be their father.
As the sons argue about how to respond, they follow this stranger out on what they believe will be a fishing trip. It becomes something altogether different—a journey of increasing and troubling mysteries, until the brothers are divided as to whether this man is who he says he is, and whether or not he means to do them harm. Is this a rite of passage into manhood? Is it a lesson in wilderness survival skills? Are they being led to their deaths?
Zvyagintsev’s film will test a viewer’s own feelings about authority figures. Is it ever enough to just "trust and obey"? Is it arrogant for us to demand justification for the behavior or instructions of our elders… or, for that matter, of God?
The movie has also inspired speculation that it is a parable about Russian history, and the return of religious faith to the country after a time of oppression and hardship. Mikhail Kritchman composes images worth capturing and contemplating. The Return ultimately feels like a lost Dostoyevsky novella brought to life.