Ivan Dobronravov did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Ivan in The Return.
The Return follows two young brothers on a strange trip with the intention to bond with their estranged father after a 12 year absence.
Ivan Dobronravov plays Ivan in the most creative naming of a character since Alex Frost as Alex in Elephant. The idea behind such a naming could be to reinforce a certain realism, as the actor should not be as detached from the character, or at least an idea of sort of hiding the acting. Well unlike that other performance from 2003 Dobronravov's performance seems to support this choice. Dobronravov was obviously a child when delivering this performance, and giving any reality to a character is one of the first indicators of a good child performer. There is not any precociousness here, as Dobronravov presents from his first a scene a kid in a fairly troubled situation. We see him early on with his brother, and his friends, or at the very least his peers as they play a game involving heights. Dobronravov is terrific in this opening scene since he realizes so effectively the distress of the situation. In first portraying the intense fear of a child's fear properly, as he breaks down physically in his reaction. Further Dobronravov afterwards captures that terribly shy embarrassment as he shows Ivan attempting to pull himself together, while only falling apart all the more when facing ridicule by those around him.
The film then cuts as Ivan and his brother Andrei return home after the incident. We are given just a few moments but Dobronravov and Vladimir Gari as Andrei both create the right inherent chemistry of two brothers who share a strong connection. There isn't a lot said in regards to the matter it is known through the performances as the two both reveal just that right sort of ease with each other, and certain comfort the two share when directly interacting with one another. Their time at home changes suddenly when their father suddenly reenters their lives and swiftly takes them on a strange trip. The central conflict begins through the separate reactions of the brothers. Gari's performance shows Andrei mainly going with the flow portraying an active attempt to become re-acquainted with their father, whereas Dobronravov establishes early on a hostility towards the man. Dobronravov's performance once again works by the sort of intensity only fitting to a child's particular reaction here. Dobronravov importantly creates the right lack of certainty in the emotional state, as he shows the distress that seems to stem from both his feelings of abandonment as they do from his feelings of not knowing how to feel about the situation.
Dobronravov gives a very stubborn performance that is quite effective in showing Ivan refusal to go along or in any way open up to his father. From the moment they set out in the car Dobronravov is consistent in portraying that raw anger of the son towards the father that has the right senselessness in a way, since again it is a kid dealing with this not an adult. As the film progresses though the father's behavior is random as he seems to try to fulfill every role of a father possible in a rapid succession. Dobronravov's performance is often reflexive towards this in portraying the growing confusion in Ivan towards his father's bizarre behavior. His performance does well though as he takes in these moments to gradually worsen Ivan's state as his underlying anger begins to also become confused with feelings of disbelief, paranoia, and even isolation as Ivan begins even losing his connection to his brother. This eventually leads to Ivan acting out in a call back to the opening scene involving a high tower. Dobronravov earns the breakdown as he makes it a powerful release of everything Ivan's been dealing with in a single act, that again is not refined moment of outrage, but rather as messy as it should be for a boy in his situation. This leads to a sudden tragedy and the film suddenly shifts as does Dobronravov's performance. What happens though makes sense for the swiftness of the shift and Dobronravov's fulfills the needed change. That being he shows similair confusion of emotion but now it is defined most strongly by sadness rather than anger, showing the boy still to be lost though now for a different reason. This is a good performance as Ivan Dobronravov realizes this difficult state of this boy through his strange situation offering the needed honesty to the specific drama.