The Italian Cute little kids have long served honorably in Russian movies as winsome foils for adult heavies — the innocent and resourceful versus the corrupt and… The Italian Cute little kids have long served honorably in Russian movies as winsome foils for adult heavies — the innocent and resourceful versus the corrupt and… 2007-01-19 PG-13 PT99M Drama Foreign Language Kolya Spiridonov Maria Kuznetsova Sony Pictures Classics
Movie Review

The Italian (2007)

MPAA Rating: PG-13
The Italian, Kolya Spiridonov | ABOUT A BOY Dickensian Russian import The Italian follows an orphan (Spiridonov) hunting for mama in the cold, hard world
Image credit: The Italian: Tatiana Kanayeva
ABOUT A BOY Dickensian Russian import The Italian follows an orphan (Spiridonov) hunting for mama in the cold, hard world
EW's GRADE
B

Details Limited Release: Jan 19, 2007; Rated: PG-13; Length: 99 Minutes; Genres: Drama, Foreign Language; With: Kolya Spiridonov; Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

Cute little kids have long served honorably in Russian movies as winsome foils for adult heavies — the innocent and resourceful versus the corrupt and indolent, the towheaded versus the toothless. In his feature debut, The Italian, Russian documentary and TV director Andrei Kravchuk uses the old setup to dramatize a new problem, that of his homeland's dismaying, interlocking orphanage and illegal-adoption businesses. The result is a picture half sweet, half bitter. Charles Dickens would approve, especially the parts where urchin kids create a society of artful dodgers, and a shady adoption broker known as Madam (Maria Kuznetsova) does business with a flourish Fagin might admire.

''The Italian'' is the name that envious orphanage buddies give 6-year-old Vanya (Kolya Spiridonov, an impressively natural kid actor surrounded by a cast of nonpros from real orphanages) because a rich Italian couple wants to adopt him. But Vanya isn't wowed. Instead, he sets out to track down his birth mother, a hero's quest that involves teaching himself to read his own hidden personnel file, escaping the institution, traveling unfamiliar roads, eluding capture, and, at times, literally rolling with the punches.

The boy is quick-witted and resilient. The adults are a post-Soviet stew of beaten-down, mind-their-own-business citizens. The hardships and setbacks are just grim enough to be effective without plunging the viewer into Russian despair.

Originally posted Jan 17, 2007 Published in issue #917 Jan 26, 2007 Order article reprints
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