A woman turns to devious means to support her family in this drama from Russian filmmaker Andrei Zvyagintsev. Middle-aged Elena (Nadezhda Markina) first met her husband Vladimir (Andrey Smirnov) when she took a job looking after him following a serious illness. The two bonded and fell in love, but wealthy Vladimir is significantly older than working-class Elena, and their relationship is still centered upon her caring for his needs. Elena has an adult son from a previous marriage, Sergei (Alexey Rozin); he's a hard-drinking slacker who can't hold a job, and Vladimir doesn't care for him, but even though Elena doesn't approve of his lifestyle she feels obligated to help support him and his young son. Vladimir has a daughter, Katerina (Elena Lyadova), who hasn't spoken with him in years, and when he has a heart attack, Elena reaches out to her in hopes they can reconcile before his health fails him. Vladimir and Katerina resolve their differences, but there's an unexpected consequence -- Vladimir announces that he's going to leave his fortune to his prodigal daughter, and Elena must find a way to set aside some of the money to support Sergei and his family without Vladimir knowing about it. Elena received a special jury award at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, where it was screened as part of the Un Certain Regard program.
by Mark Deming synopsis