The Return (12A)



Drama (2003)
110mins Rus

Starring: Konstantin Lavronenko, Ivan Dobronravov, Vladimir Garin
Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

Andrei and his younger brother Vanya have been raised almost single-handedly by their adoring mother and grandmother. They have never met their father, not until they return home one day, to discover their old man asleep in the family home and apparently keen to make amends. Their father proposes to take the lads on a brief holiday, sailing to a remote island then camping beneath the stars. The journey is quickly fraught with resentment and bad feeling.

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The Return

The Return is a muddled tale of fractured memories and bloodshed set in a various towns throughout Texas, which look particularly uninviting thanks to director of photography Roman Osin's brown- and grey-heavy visual palette...

Sarah Michelle Gelar in The Return. Copyright:  2006 Universal Studios. ALL RIGHTS RESERVEDIf Kapadia is incapable of generating any tension behind the camera, his cast fails to make much impact in front of it, not least Sarah Michelle Gellar as the beleaguered heroine, who has all of the expressiveness of a shop mannequin.

Screenwriter Adam Sussman, who was apparently inspired to write The Return after his life was touched by tragedy, strands the film between two different timeframes, some 15 years apart. Sins of the past return to haunt the present, and Gellar's co-star Peter O'Brien does not age a day across the intervening years. Now that's creepy.

Ever since she and her father Ed (Sam Shepard) were involved in a freakish traffic accident, Joanna Mills (Gellar) has been haunted by nightmarish visions of a murdered woman she has never met. The visions become less frequent when she moves to a neighbouring state to take up a job as a sales representative for a trucking company, where her possessive ex-boyfriend Kurt (Adam Scott) also works.

When Joanna's work takes her back to her sleepy hometown, the visions return with frightening intensity, drawing her into the orbit of the reclusive Terry Stahl (O'Brien), who was suspected - rightly or wrongly - of killing his wife Annie (Erinn Allison).

The tearful reunion with her father never happens and as much as Joanna is glad to meet her old friends, including school pal Michelle (Kate Beahan), the omens do not look good - she keeps hallucinating and her car stereo insists on playing "Sweet Dreams" by Patsy Cline. As the terrified trucking rep begins to understand the messages from the past, she also edges closer to discovering the identity of the killer.

At a sprightly 85 minutes, The Return still manages to drag its heels revealing the various pieces of the puzzle before contriving a hare-brained finale that sees Joanna fighting for her life in an old barn. The twist becomes obvious once Ed remarks that 11-year-old Joanna (played by Darrian McClanahan) was a "completely different person" after the car crash. Hint hint.

Gellar's lack lustre performance is matched bum note for bum note by O'Brien's woefully underwritten killer/potential love interest. After the first hour, and almost nothing of consequence has happened, you begin to crave for a couple of cheap scares. Kapadia refuses to oblige - his restraint condemns the picture to a slow, drawn-out demise.

- Heather Von Bourne


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