Saturday, January 07, 2023

The Son, on

Some of these graduating Spetsnaz recruits have likely gone on to commit war crimes in Ukraine, or died as cannon fodder. Dima Ilyukhin, the filmmaker’s cousin, was already the latter, having been killed during one of Putin’s black ops in Dagestan. Alexander Abaturov contrasts the Spetsnaz militarist indoctrination with the grief and despair of Ilyukhin’s family in The Son, which premieres this coming Tuesday on

There is no commentary on Dagestan or the related operations in Chechnya and Crimean Ukraine, so Abaturov never directly criticizes Putin’s fascist military campaigns. However, he captures the tragic results for Ilykhin’s family in scenes of unvarnished intimacy, which definitely would not be good for Putin’s business, if more Russians had the opportunity to watch it.

Frankly, the training sequences do not look particularly extraordinary or damning. Yes, the process is physically and emotionally demanding. That is what military discipline is like. Still, I hope someone in the U.S. military eventually watches this film, in case they pick up on something lost on us civilians.

Regardless, anyone can see the anguish of Ilykhin’s parents. Surprisingly, his mom seems to be handling it better. She even seems to be settling into the role of grieving military mother and the minor leadership status it entails. However, his father appears to be literally and profoundly inconsolable.

The Son
is short, but focused, essentially contrasting the before and after experiences of Spetsnaz enlistment. It is strange to see the soldiers’ show of esprit de corps, in light of recent events in Ukraine, where the mortality rate for senior officers has been embarrassingly high, reportedly due to the poor training of junior officers and NCOs.

Presumably, the Spetsnaz cooperated with Abaturov because it wanted to project an image of strength. However, the film’s most representative visual is the site of two grieving fathers overlooking Ilykhin’s grave. Recommended for advanced Russia watchers (mainstream viewers should probably start with
Navalny and Once Upon a Time in Londongrad), The Son starts streaming Tuesday (1/10) on