‘Elena,’ reviewed by Marshall Fine


Though billed as a Russian film noir, “Elena” skimps on the noir and more’s the pity.

Instead, it’s a disciplined, controlled and ultimately disappointing drama of family tension and murder. The crime does not go unpunished, but the punishment seems mild to the point of nonexistence.

Nadezhda Markina plays Elena, second wife of Vladimir (Andrey Smirnov), a retired businessman of means. They live in a posh penthouse apartment in Moscow, sharing the same bed from time to time but keeping separate bedrooms.

Their individual children are the only source of friction in their lives. Her son Sergey (Aleksey Rozin), from a previous marriage, is an unemployed ne’er-do-well with a teen-age son and a baby; Elena helps them out financially, but it’s a sore subject with Vladimir, who wants nothing to do with Sergey. When Elena asks him for money to help Sergey’s son Sasha get into college to avoid the army, Vlad refuses.

Elena, in turn, disapproves of Vlad’s daughter from his first marriage. Katya (Yelena Lyadova) is a drug-taking party girl who lives off Vlad’s money but rarely comes to visit him.

Then Vlad suffers a heart attack – and announces to Elena that he’s finally going to write a will. Said document will leave her their apartment and an annual annuity – but will bequeath the bulk of his money to Katya. And no, once again, he will not help Sasha with the college funds.

So Elena, who met Vlad when she was a nurse and he suffered an attack of appendicitis, begins to think the unthinkable. How can she get rid of Vlad before he writes that will – with the lawyer set to arrive the next day?

This review continues on my website.

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