Taking Care of Their Own
Elena met Vladimir late on in life and whilst very different ended up getting married with Elena being the loyal housewife despite Vladimir showing no affection. But with Vladimir being a wealthy man it means she can help support her unemployed son who struggles to take care of his own family. For Vladimir he too has a child, a daughter, but he has had nothing to do with her in years. That is until a heart attack makes him reassess his life and decides that when he dies everything is going to his daughter having met up with her again. It throws a spanner in to the works as Elena had planned to help her son out with what she would inherit which leaves her coming up with a plan to help them.
"Elena" starts with a shot through the bare branches of a tree; we can see an apartment with a wrap around balcony which is in semi darkness. But as the sun comes up the balcony awakens, we hear a bird noise and then we enter then darkness of this home which again slowly reveals itself as the sun comes up and pours in through the many windows. I am not going to lie because I found this artsy opening tedious although will admit that director Andrey Zvyagintsev certainly has a sharp eye for a visual. The thing is that it isn't just the opening of "Elena" which has this artsy styling, a lot of the movie has it and unless you are the sort of movie lover who watches for the art this is going to be slow and hard going.
But if you can get past the slow and often artsy nature of "Elena" an interesting story starts to emerge as we look at the attitudes of the characters as we have Elena who despite feeling no love from Vladimir has been raised as a modest, housewife who cares for her husband. We also see how she has loyalty to her son to the point that her need to make sure they are alright might have contributed to him being unmotivated. But then we have the attitude of Vladimir who whilst happy to take care of Elena doesn't feel like he should help her unmotivated son and feels like his estranged daughter is deserving of more of his wealth. It is surprisingly interesting and without giving anything away leads to Elena deciding to get what she feels she is entitled to before it is too late.
What this all boils down to is that "Elena" is that annoying mix of being both interesting but also hard work which whilst I am sure will appeal to those who watch movies for their art might be too slow and artsy for those who are dipping their toe in some thing not mainstream.