As one of the most talented directors in modern cinema, Andrei zvyagintsev was known for his critically acclaimed debut, "the return," which won as many as 20 awards at major film festivals. Many have viewed his second film, "the banishment" as a let-down given the unusually high standard set by his first film. So, many fans of Andrei Zvyaginitsev including myself eagerly waited for his third film, "elena" to come out to see whether this young talented director can overcome his "sophomore jinx." Compared to "the return" in which every second is engaging and serves a purpose, "elena" doesn't quite have the riveting power of the former. I can't pinpoint why, but a few minutes into the movie, my emotion remains unprovoked and numbed. The long, still shots of the interior of the bourgeois house in the city center did not quite convey the sense of alienation that the director intended. As one critic comment, it feels rather claustrophobic. It wasn't until 30 minutes into the movie, the first meaningful, engaging scene appears when the couple starts arguing at the breakfast table about the future of the woman's son. Of course, we have to give credit to the director for not making this film into a superficial family drama and for extending into the social and political context where the portrayal of the stark contrast between the woman's son's dingy, run-down apartment in the shady suburb and the rich man's luxurious condo begs some deep questions. But it seems to me that the director tried to take on too many important issues and lost his focus. The identity and the background of the man's pretty daughter are not adequately explained. Again, one problem of this film seems to mirror that of "the banishment." It suffers from being excessively mysterious and lack of explanation. As usual, the cinematography of this film is beautiful, as his previous films. One shot that is particularly striking is the long shot of the industrial complex under the sunset near the end of film. It is an absolutely beautiful and powerful image. And the subsequent scene where a blackout occurred and the hand-held camera follows a group of violent Russian youth gangs including the woman's own son, in darkness dimly lit by the distant bonfire, is incredibly authentic and powerful. This reminded me of the beginning of the banishment; this is where I think the director excels at, being able to immediately establish a mood with a few simple sequences. Overall, the film "elena" shows flashes of brilliance that resemble the director's debut, "the return," but ultimately it suffers from inadequately developed characters, lack of coherence of scenes and a failure to integrate the different themes it tries to convey.