Elena 2011

Critics score:
93 / 100

Reviews provided by RottenTomatoes

Stephen Holden, New York Times: Post-Soviet Russia in Andrei Zvyagintsev's somber, gripping film "Elena" is a moral vacuum where money rules, the haves are contemptuous of the have-nots, and class resentment simmers. Read more

John Hartl, Seattle Times: Zvyaginstsev makes the most of the ghastly settings, which include a backyard that ominously features nuclear cones - and the kinds of compartmentalized living spaces that Hitchcock used for droll effect in "Rear Window." Read more

Scott Tobias, AV Club: Through Markina's torn allegiances, Zvyagintsev digs deep into matters of inheritance and how much we truly owe the people we love. Read more

Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic: It's a sort of slow-boil Russian noir, if that genre exists, and if it doesn't, it does now. Read more

Ty Burr, Boston Globe: "Elena" reveals a filmmaker in full command of his art and not much interested in catering to an audience. If you want this film, you have to meet it more than halfway. Read more

J. R. Jones, Chicago Reader: A quiet, subtle mystery whose long, penetrating takes have drawn comparisons to Andrei Tarkovsky and whose mordantly ironic conclusion may remind you of Claude Chabrol. Read more

Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune: The script, by Oleg Negin and Zvyagintsev, uses spare dialogue to quietly devastating effect. Performances are superb across the board, framed in elegant widescreen compositions that simmer with violence. Read more

Sheri Linden, Los Angeles Times: Performances are superb across the board, framed in elegant widescreen compositions that simmer with violence. Read more

Richard Brody, New Yorker: [A] sluggish, portentous melodrama... Read more

Ella Taylor, NPR: Deeper down, the movie seethes quietly with the moody influence of other East European masters of the timeless ineffable. Read more

V.A. Musetto, New York Post: 'Elena" is a grim, somber portrait of life in Putin's Russia, where the haves and have-nots uneasily co-exist. Read more

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times: Andrei Zvyagintsev's film isn't stupid or crude, and we can pretty well imagine how all the characters feel, even though it doesn't make them sympathetic. Read more

Andrew O'Hehir, Salon.com: The truly terrible question asked by this quiet, haunting and magnificent film is: Dear God, isn't there some better way to live? Read more

Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle: Here's a tip: Don't feel. Think. Zvyagintsev wants you to come out of "Elena" thinking something, and if your realization is an uneasy one, that's OK with him. Read more

Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune: "Elena" is a riveting psychological suspense film. Read more

Joe Williams, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: In different hands, "Elena" might have been a noir thriller, but this serving of cinematic borscht is as cold as a Russian winter. Read more

Geoff Andrew, Time Out: Sturdy performances, fine photography from Mikhail Krichman, good use of music by Philip Glass and a pleasingly terse script make for incisive, gripping drama. Read more

Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out: Elena feels a touch repetitive right when it should be tightening the screws. But its fatalism is contagious. Read more

Stanley Kauffmann, The New Republic: Naturalism lives. If Zola were a Russian in Russia today, he might have written Elena. Read more

Nick Pinkerton, Village Voice: The cautious, controlling, abstemious bourgeoisie are overtaken by the heedlessly fertile lower orders, the temporary inheritors of a terribly weary earth. Read more

Michael O'Sullivan, Washington Post: A nicely noirish, cynically satisfying drama set in a gritty, urban Moscow that would otherwise not seem to be a haven for wildlife. Read more