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The Return (2003 film)

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The Return
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAndrey Zvyagintsev
Written byVladimir Moiseyenko
Aleksandr Novototsky
Produced byYelena Kovalyova
Dmitry Lesnevsky
StarringVladimir Garin
Ivan Dobronravov
Konstantin Lavronenko
Natalia Vdovina
Music byAndrei Dergatchev
Distributed byKino International (US)
Release date
  • 25 June 2003 (2003-06-25)
Running time
105 minutes
Budgetbelow US$500,000
Box officeUS$4.4 million

The Return (Russian: Возвращение, romanizedVozvrashcheniye) is a 2003 Russian coming-of-age drama film directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev and released internationally in 2004.

It tells the story of two Russian boys whose father suddenly returns home after a 12-year absence. He takes the boys on a holiday to a remote island on a lake that turns into a test of manhood of almost mythic proportions. It won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival (as well as the award for the best first film) and was nominated on Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film. The film was also selected as the Russian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 76th Academy Awards, but it didn't make the final shortlist. It received generally positive reviews from critics.



In contemporary Russia, Ivan and his older brother Andrei have grown a deep attachment to each other to make up for their fatherless childhood. Both their mother and grandmother live with them. After running home after a fight with each other, the boys are shocked to discover their father has returned after a 12-year absence. With their mother's uneasy blessing, Ivan and Andrei set out on what they believe will be a simple fishing vacation with him.

Andrei is delighted to be reunited with their father and Ivan is apprehensive towards the man whom they know only from a faded photograph.

At first, both brothers are pleased with the prospect of an exciting adventure, but they soon strain under the weight of their father's awkward and increasingly brutal efforts to make up for the missing decade. Ivan and Andrei find themselves alternately tested, rescued, scolded, mentored, scrutinized, and ignored by the man. Andrei seems to look up to his father while Ivan remains stubbornly defensive.

As the truck stops and cafés give way to rain-swept, primeval wilderness coastline, Ivan's doubts give way to open defiance. Andrei's powerful need to bond with a father he's never known begins, in turn, to distance him from Ivan. Ivan and his father's test of will escalates into bitter hostility and sudden violence after the trio arrives at their mysterious island destination.

Ivan has an outburst of anger after witnessing his father strike Andrei. He shouts at his father, runs into the forest, and climbs to the top of the observatory tower. Andrei and their father run after him. The father tries to reason with Ivan, but this only stresses Ivan further. He then threatens to jump down from the top of the tower. The father tries to reach out to him, but falls to his death.

Ivan and Andrei take the body across the forest, bring him on board the boat, and row back to where they came. While the boys are putting their gear in the car, the boat starts to drift away. Andrei screams, "Father!" and starts running towards the shore, followed by Ivan, but it is too late. The boat and the body are sinking. Ivan screams "Father!" for the first and the last time from the bottom of his heart. They get into the car and drive away. The film ends with photographs from their journey; since the father does not appear on any of them, there is no proof that Andrei and Ivan went on a trip with him.





The Return was filmed on and around Lake Ladoga and the Gulf of Finland. The budget of the film remains a secret, though in an interview the director and the producer hinted that it was well below $500,000. The director also mentioned that the producers made their money back even before it was screened at the Venice Film Festival. The film premiered in Russia on 16 October 2003, with the worldwide premiere taking place on 31 October 2003.

Vladimir Garin drowned shortly after filming and two months before the film's debut. He was 16 years old.[1]



Box office


The Return grossed $4,429,093 worldwide.[2]

Critical response


As of 20 September 2020, The Return has an approval rating of 96% on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 89 reviews, and an average rating of 8.1/10. The website's critical consensus states, "A suspenseful but perplexing thriller".[3] It also has a score of 82 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on 30 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[4]

In a 2016 BBC critics' poll, The Return was ranked the 80th-greatest film of the 21st century.[5] In 2023 The Hollywood Reporter critics' poll, The Return was ranked the 32nd-greatest of the 21st century.[6]

Awards and nominations



BBC Four World Cinema Awards 2005
European Film Awards
  • Winner, European Discovery of the Year (Fassbinder Award)
Golden Globe Awards
  • Nominee, Best Foreign Language Film Russia
Palm Springs International Film Festival
  • Winner, Best Foreign Film
Venice Film Festival
Guldbagge Awards
  • Winner, Best Foreign Film
César Awards
  • Nominee, Best Foreign Film


Russian Guild of Film Critics[7]
  • Winner, Best Film
  • Winner, Best Director of Photography (Mikhail Krichman)
  • Winner, Best Debut
Nika Award[8]
  • Winner, Best Film
  • Winner, Best Director of Photography (Mikhail Krichman)
Golden Eagle Award[9]
  • Winner, Best Film
  • Winner, Best Director of Photography (Mikhail Krichman)
  • Winner, Best Sound (Andrei Khudyakov)

See also



  1. ^ The Guardian Tragic twist denies young star triumph in Venice , Friday 5 September 2003
  2. ^ "The Return". boxofficemojo.com. Retrieved March 10, 2013.
  3. ^ "The Return" Rotten Tomatoes Retrieved March 10, 2013
  4. ^ "The Return" Metacritic Retrieved March 10, 2013
  5. ^ "The 21st Century's 100 greatest films". BBC. August 23, 2016. Retrieved September 8, 2016.
  6. ^ Frosch, Jon; Rooney, David; Linden, Sheri; Gyarkye, Lovia; Felperin, Leslie; Mintzer, Jordan (6 April 2023). "Hollywood Reporter Critics Pick the 50 Best Films of the 21st Century (So Far)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 16 November 2023.
  7. ^ "2003". Russian Guild of Film Critics.
  8. ^ "Лауреаты Национальной кинематографической премии "НИКА" за 2003 год". Nika Award.
  9. ^ "Лауреаты премии "Золотой Орел" за 2003 год". Golden Eagle Award.