The Return


Universal acclaim - based on 30 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 26 out of 30
  2. Negative: 0 out of 30

Where To Watch

Stream On

Critic Reviews

  1. Enriched by allusions to biblical stories of fathers, sons, and sacrifices, subtly woven into the movie's moodily photographed fabric.
  2. Can be interpreted politically or even biblically or not at all, as the elemental struggles between dominance and submission, impulse and action, man and nature, father and son, play out to their stunning conclusion.
  3. 100
    While most films are fortunate if they succeed on any level, The Return works easily on several, making as powerful a mark emotionally as it does visually and even allegorically. Yet the film so catches you up in its compelling story, you're almost not aware of how masterful a piece of cinema you're watching.
  4. The Russian film The Return is a stunning contemporary fable about a divided family in the wilderness - a simple, riveting film that almost achieves greatness.
  5. At once a powerful psychological thriller and a haunting allegory, The Return marks an auspicious feature debut for helmer Andrey Zvyagintsev.
  6. 90
    At once highly naturalistic and dreamily abstract, playing out its mythic themes through vibrantly detailed characterizations (and remarkable performances by the entire cast). The Return announces the arrival of a major new talent.
  7. 90
    The true mystery is the journey itself, which will turn out to be one of the most spiritually enervating, and elevating, Outward Bound courses ever undertaken.
  8. Wall Street Journal
    Reviewed by: Joe Morgenstern
    A film that asks its audience to invest serious thought, and in return, bestows serious pleasure.
  9. The New Yorker
    Reviewed by: Anthony Lane
    It is the first film to be directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev, and what it shares with other coruscating débuts, from “The Four Hundred Blows” to “Badlands,” is a sense that it HAD to be made. There is a controlled wildness at the heart of such movies, whose narratives ask to be handled as delicately as explosives. [15 March 2004, p. 154]
  10. Beautifully structured and emotionally wrenching.
  11. 90
    A haunting Russian art film with the economy of a thriller.
  12. It's not the sort of film one can be said to enjoy, but it is the sort of film that has the clarity of a dream and lingers for hours.
  13. 89
    This is nobody's idea of a happy family story, but it is a pristinely chilling depiction of familial meltdown in a post-Stalinist, Twilight Zone anti-place, the dark heart of heartlessness and mysterious parenting techniques.
  14. A haunting, melancholy work.
  15. 88
    Vladimir Garin and Ivan Dobronravov are amazingly natural as the boys, and Konstantin Lavronenko impresses as the taciturn father.
  16. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    Filmed with a cold, poetic beauty, The Return slowly strips away motivation until it arrives at a place of myth both private and oddly universal.
  17. 88
    Many questions remain purposely unanswered: Where was the father for 12 years? Why did he want to go away with the kids? What's in a box he finds hidden in the island? Yet, in a remarkable ending, the boys discover their feelings.
  18. The hurt and rage flying back and forth have primal power, like Russian-flavored Eugene O'Neill. It's rare for a movie to work as effectively as this one does on such parallel tracks.
  19. Reviewed by: Deborah Young
    Constructed like an eerie, metaphorical thriller, this tense, riveting character study offers viewers nearly two hours of emotions with a stunning pay-off no one will be expecting.
  20. 80
    In its dramatic shift from the real to the allegorical, the ending of Andrey Zvyagintsev's auspicious debut feature The Return is likely to leave many viewers scratching their heads.
  21. Reviewed by: David Hughes
    Garin’s performance is just one of the note-perfect elements in The Return -- unfussy acting, unhurried direction, sublime cinematography and low-key music -- which conspire to draw the audience into a deceptively simple story with numerous hidden depths.
  22. 75
    It is a Kafkaesque story, in which ominous things follow one another with a certain internal logic but make no sense at all.
  23. 70
    Primordial and laconic, this remarkably assured debut feature has the elegant simplicity of its title.
  24. Actor-turned-director Andrey Zvyagintsev's feature debut is haunted by an elusive past and suffused with dread about the future, and it's all suggestion without explanation.
  25. Premiere
    Reviewed by: Glenn Kenny
    Unfortunately, the reach of The Return exceeds its grasp, and so this film of gruffly beautiful images didn't put a hook in me the way Zvyagintsev so ardently seems to want it to. [March 2003, p. 27]
  26. Oh, it's The Return, all right. To any masochist who's been pining for all those clichéd tropes associated with Russian cinema -- ponderous pacing and arcane symbolism shot through a lens darkly -- this will seem a welcome blast from the past.
  27. With exceptional performances and extraordinary imagery, Zvyagintsev has fashioned a remarkable first feature.
  28. Still, it never quite realizes the oneiric quality because, paradoxically, of its best achievement--the performances of the two boys. They are vital, insistent. Their beings contradict the dreaminess and make us ask the questions mentioned above.
  29. A tense, expertly acted Russian film clouded by its intentional ambiguity.
  30. 50
    Strip away the portentous style and lush views of nature in The Return and all you've got is a slender nightmare of a family gone haywire in an outing that turns into survival camp.
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 43 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 12 out of 17
  2. Negative: 2 out of 17
  1. BillH.
    Nov 27, 2007
    Brilliant and beautiful moving film.
  2. CitizenKhan
    May 11, 2006
    Truly tense and emotionally riveting.
  3. DavidH.
    Mar 21, 2007
    Well-acted, but the screenplay is elliptical and implausible (I know Russians aren't exactly well reputed for their manners or social Well-acted, but the screenplay is elliptical and implausible (I know Russians aren't exactly well reputed for their manners or social skills, but fathers don't walk in on their kids for the firs time in 12 years by surprise without telling them where they've or what they've done). The story arc of the dad returning to hoping resolve an existential crisis in his children and to teach them about individual responsibility is his hammered home in an obvious fashion that doesn't hold up for two hour, halfway through which I lost all interest. The direction and photography are affected and pretentious. Zvyagentsev appears to fancy himself as a kind of post-Soviet era Tarksovsky, but lacks the imagination or human insight of the said director. Full Review »