Post-Soviet Russia in Andrei Zvyagintsev's somber, gripping film "Elena" is a moral vacuum where money rules, the haves are contemptuous of the have-nots, and class resentment simmers.
Stephen Holden - New York Times
A deeply satisfying film.
Peter Bradshaw - Guardian [UK]
A nicely noirish, cynically satisfying drama set in a gritty, urban Moscow that would otherwise not seem to be a haven for wildlife.
Michael O'Sullivan - Washington Post
"Elena" reveals a filmmaker in full command of his art and not much interested in catering to an audience. If you want this film, you have to meet it more than halfway.
Ty Burr - Boston Globe
The cautious, controlling, abstemious bourgeoisie are overtaken by the heedlessly fertile lower orders, the temporary inheritors of a terribly weary earth.
Nick Pinkerton - Village Voice
[A] sluggish, portentous melodrama...
Richard Brody - New Yorker
Andrei Zvyagintsev's film isn't stupid or crude, and we can pretty well imagine how all the characters feel, even though it doesn't make them sympathetic.
Roger Ebert - Chicago Sun-Times
The script, by Oleg Negin and Zvyagintsev, uses spare dialogue to quietly devastating effect. Performances are superb across the board, framed in elegant widescreen compositions that simmer with violence.
Michael Phillips - Chicago Tribune
A quiet, subtle mystery whose long, penetrating takes have drawn comparisons to Andrei Tarkovsky and whose mordantly ironic conclusion may remind you of Claude Chabrol.
J. R. Jones - Chicago Reader
"Elena" is a riveting psychological suspense film.
Colin Covert - Minneapolis Star Tribune
It's a sort of slow-boil Russian noir, if that genre exists, and if it doesn't, it does now.
Bill Goodykoontz - Arizona Republic
'Elena" is a grim, somber portrait of life in Putin's Russia, where the haves and have-nots uneasily co-exist.
V.A. Musetto - New York Post
The truly terrible question asked by this quiet, haunting and magnificent film is: Dear God, isn't there some better way to live?
Andrew O'Hehir - Salon.com
Performances are superb across the board, framed in elegant widescreen compositions that simmer with violence.
Sheri Linden - Los Angeles Times
The kind of family drama that gives family dramas a good name.
Tim Brayton - Antagony & Ecstasy
Though very Russian, there is an extremely universal story at the heart of this film ...
Graham Young - Birmingham Post
A perfectly formed drama that gradually takes hold and doesn't let go.
Gail Tolley - The List
It's very gloomy. It's very Russian. It's as powerful as any picture released this season.
Donald Clarke - Irish Times
A slow-burning but engrossing drama that takes an intriguingly dark view of the sanctity of family in order to explore the ways in which bad seeds have a habit of flourishing in any environment.
Alistair Harkness - Scotsman
It's a gripping, resonant tale, and Nadezhda Markina is outstanding as Elena, and far more sympathetic than perhaps she should be.
Philip French - Observer [UK]
One of the very best Russian films of the past year.
Derek Malcolm - This is London
It may seem slow and lugubrious but it draws you into these complex, contradictory lives the way a spider lures a fly into a web.
Allan Hunter - Daily Express
[An] understated but gripping drama about family ties, about the way that sometimes tensions vie with tenderness in even the closest relationships.
Marc Lee - Daily Telegraph
The mundanity of the everyday is examined, but do you really want to watch someone slowly making a bed?
Alex Zane - Sun Online
A withering admonishment of capitalism and the emotional mindset that comes with.
David Jenkins - Little White Lies
Zvyagintsev, who made The Return and The Banishment, does a good impression of constructing a world while secretly spinning a web.
Leo Robson - Financial Times
Quietly gripping Russian drama with a thought-provoking script and a captivating central performance from Nadezhda Markina.
Matthew Turner - ViewLondon
Zvyagintsev moves the story with a slow, brooding pace - aided by a somber Philip Glass score - that turns the screws patiently and inexorably toward a shattering conclusion.
Sean Means - Salt Lake Tribune
Backed by a sparing Philip Glass score, Elena eloquently shows how, in modern Russia, even family relationships are at the mercy of business.
Tom Dawson - Total Film
Sturdy performances, fine photography from Mikhail Krichman, good use of music by Philip Glass and a pleasingly terse script make for incisive, gripping drama.
Geoff Andrew - Time Out
Absorbing but slow-moving family drama taking place in post-Soviet Russia.
Dennis Schwartz - Ozus' World Movie Reviews
A remarkable film...spare and acutely observed.
Frank Swietek - One Guy's Opinion
... a broad critique of Putin's Russia and corrupting effects of both poverty and wealth on ordinary human values.
Sarah Boslaugh - PopMatters
In different hands, "Elena" might have been a noir thriller, but this serving of cinematic borscht is as cold as a Russian winter.
Joe Williams - St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Be sure to see "Elena" with a friend, because it's the sort of movie where the real experience begins after it ends.
Chris Hewitt (St. Paul) - St. Paul Pioneer Press
Zvyaginstsev makes the most of the ghastly settings, which include a backyard that ominously features nuclear cones - and the kinds of compartmentalized living spaces that Hitchcock used for droll effect in "Rear Window."
John Hartl - Seattle Times
Elena takes us into the mind of a woman who has been pushed by life into an uncomfortable corner where she has to choose between different kinds of love...[a]very solid, intense drama.
Jim Schembri - 3AW
A thoroughly modern twist on the classic noir, framed for our modern times in contemporary Moscow, where the gap between the haves and the have nots is stark.
Ed Gibbs - The Sunday Age
Elena is an acquired taste, a film that doesn't provide cheap thrills or easy, pat resolutions, nor any moral certainty
Andrew L. Urban - Urban Cinefile
Here's a tip: Don't feel. Think. Zvyagintsev wants you to come out of "Elena" thinking something, and if your realization is an uneasy one, that's OK with him.
Mick LaSalle - San Francisco Chronicle
Acid portrait of an unhappy marriage in contemporary Moscow.
Kelly Vance - East Bay Express
A grim, effective allegory of the daily whirl in Putinland.
Gerald Peary - Boston Phoenix
Director Zvyagintsey displays a deft hand with his small troupe of performers and has a talent for making family dramas with an edge.
Robin Clifford - Reeling Reviews
...has more in common with Chantal Akerman's "Jeanne Dielman" [than "The Return"] imbued with a Russian male perspective on today's dog eat dog world, a breakdown of societal morality.
Laura Clifford - Reeling Reviews
Naturalism lives. If Zola were a Russian in Russia today, he might have written Elena.
Stanley Kauffmann - New Republic
Stanley Kauffmann - The New Republic
Legendary Russian director Andrei Zvyagintsev creates a great film noir.
Ron Wilkinson - Monsters and Critics
Could have used a bit more life injected into its sterile, though beautifully shot, confines.
Will McCord - Paste Magazine
Kent Turner - Film-Forward.com
A story about someone creating her own personal hell and being forced to live in it. But hell doesn't seem particularly unnerving at the end.
Marshall Fine - Hollywood & Fine
Deeper down, the movie seethes quietly with the moody influence of other East European masters of the timeless ineffable.
Ella Taylor - NPR
Through Markina's torn allegiances, Zvyagintsev digs deep into matters of inheritance and how much we truly owe the people we love.
Scott Tobias - AV Club
A somber, heart-wrenching drama as well as a very timely critique of modern society.
Avi Offer - NYC Movie Guru
A Russian domestic thriller set in Moscow where the gap between the rich and the poor has grown into an abyss.
Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat - Spirituality and Practice
Elena feels a touch repetitive right when it should be tightening the screws. But its fatalism is contagious.
Joshua Rothkopf - Time Out New York
Russian New Wave cinema at its best.
Louis Proyect - rec.arts.movies.reviews
Elena is a film deeply concerned with class resentment, but the filmmakers' attitude toward their titular character is disconcerting and even shocking.
Chuck Bowen - Slant Magazine
The road to hell may indeed be paved with good intentions. Elena presents us with characters who are, oblivious or not, hard at work on setting the asphalt.
Simon Miraudo - Quickflix
The frequent tracking shots mirror the ways in which one thing leads to another seemingly without thought or cause, though a certain dark strain of causality is exactly what's on display here.
Michael Nordine - Film Threat
A film to crow about loudly, and if nothing else one to release, please, surely. Somebody.
Tim Robey - Daily Telegraph