DRAMA; 1hr 49min (Russian with subtitles)

STARRING: Nadezhda Markina, Andrey Smirnov, Elena Lyadova, Alexey Rozin

Femme fatale: Markina

Russian writer-director Andrey Zvyagintsev isn’t one to rush things, and therein lies the slumberous power of wintry family power struggle Elena. Unfolding in dense, quiet layers, its themes of loyalty, familial rivalry and the exigencies of desperation are both universal and specific to its time and place. 


Elena and Vladimir (Markina and Smirnov) are a middle-aged, second-marriage couple whose comfortable life is determined by his financial security. A former nurse, she has a more modest background and her married son, Sergey (Rozin), lives with his fractious family in a grasping, aimless poverty that strains her relationship with her disapproving husband.


When Vladimir suffers a heart attack and wills the bulk of his assets to his difficult, spoiled daughter, Katya (Lyadova), with whom Elena does not get along, while refusing financial assistance to Sergey and his son, Elena’s reaction is swift and decisive. 


Markina plays it out with the pious, forbearing patience of the put-upon and the overlooked. And the underestimated, as it happens. The meek, remember, shall inherit the Earth and they’re not to be taken lightly.