The Banishment

William Saroyan's story “The Laughing Matter” provided the basis for this chilling domestic drama from Russia, directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev (The Return). The film opens with a shady urban character (Alexander Baluev) seeking his younger brother's help in sewing up his bleeding arm. When the brother (Konstantin Lavronenko) vacations with his kids and troubled wife (Maria Bonnevie of Reconstruction) at the family's country place, she suddenly blurts out that the child she's carrying isn't his. More wounds will confound this brood when the gangster sibling reappears with a potential solution to the couple's dilemma. Spare dialogue and long takes add to the sense of foreboding, with Lavronenko (who won the best actor prize at Cannes) keeping his character so buttoned-up you could burst from anxiety watching him consider his revenge, while the verdant landscape devolves from pastoral to sinister in the space of a phone call. In Russian with subtitles. 150 min.

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