It would be unfair to call Russian director Alexander Sokurov's "Mother and Son" a motion picture. This stunning drama is more akin to a moving painting than anything else.
But that's exactly what Sokurov intended this beautifully photographed tone poem to be. It's a portrait of a loving son (Alexei Ananishov) who takes care of his dying mother (Gudrun Geyer) during her final hours.
The end result may annoy viewers who expect to see a traditional narrative movie. To be sure, it's slow moving, with scenes that seem to linger forever.
However, it's meant to be absorbed slowly, with a classical music accompaniment (including some Guiseppe Verdi compositions) that helps set the somewhat somber tone.
And though the subject matter can be looked upon as depressingly downbeat, it's treated with obvious affection and warmth.
As mentioned, there isn't much narrative structure here. Instead, the film peers in on the young man as he attempts to make his mother as comfortable as possible while she slips away.
Over a 48-hour period, he shares some of his most treasured childhood memories with her, carries her out into the nearby countryside and tries to get her to sleep and eat.
He also serves as a strong physical presence in her home, allowing the enfeebled woman to leave her bed for the last time. The demanding role takes its toll on the young man, though, who wanders into the forest to grieve — but only after she finally falls asleep.
Alexei Fyodorov's photography is soft-focus, with an expressionistic, painterly composition style that suits the material. And the sparse dialogue never rises above a murmur, serving almost as part of the musical soundtrack.
On a similar note are Geyer and Ananishov's performances, which are superb. Ananishov carries a magnificently haunted expression, that indicates a deep-buried sadness continually threatening to erupt.
"Mother and Son" is not rated, but would probably receive a G. It contains no offensive content.