Ivan and his older brother Andrei, who live with their mother and grandmother, have grown a deep attachment to each other to make up for their fatherless childhood. Both of them are shocked to discover one evening that their father is back after a 12 years absence. At first, both brothers are pleased with the prospect of having a father at home, but they soon strain under the weight of the awkward and increasingly brutal efforts made by the parent trying to re-instate himself in the family. The boys find themselves alternately tested, rescued, scolded, mentored, scrutinized, and ignored by the man. While Andrei seems to look up to his father attempts to bond with his father, his younger brother remains stubbornly defensive and often bitterly defiant. Taken by the father to a remote island, they are submitted to test of manhood and courage that lead inevitably to a tragic event. Often seen as a metaphor forthe Soviet regime and its undoing, the film turned out to be the auspicious debut of a director now considered the most important filmmaker in Russia since Andrei Tarkovsky.
Andrey Zvyagintsev (born 1964 in Novosibirsk) studied acting and moved later to Moscow, hoping to find there more interesting and exciting work. Instead he had to survive for some eight years on meager supporting parts on TV series, until he was offered the chance to direct several episodes in a popular TV series. His first feature, "The Return" (2003) was an international sensation, his second film, "Banishment" (2007) got its lead actor, Constantin Lavronenko, the acting award in Cannes, next he made "Elena" (2011), the enormously successful "Leviathan" (2014) which got a script award in Cannes and the Golden Globe of the year for best foreign film and "Loveless", once again in the Cannes competition, to be awarded its Grand Prix.