Andrei Kravchuk, Russia, 2005 (8.4*)
Based on a true story, you might call this a realistic, modern version of Oliver Twist. The story is about Russian orphans, and this centers on a six-year old boy named Vanya, realistically portrayed by Kolya Spiridonov. The title comes from his nickname, given after a visiting Italian couple decides to adopt him, and he then awaits the two months of bureaucratic paper shuffling. He becomes the envy of most of the others because few will be adopted, and almost none go to warm climates like the Mediterranean.
The orphans go out daily and make pocket change however they can, with some of the teenage girls prostituting themselves. At night, they pool their money in a common fund, and discuss their dreams of a better life. Some simply want to be adopted, but most would like to find their birth mothers. The adults here are mostly shown as alcoholics and mercenaries, though most truly wish a better life for all the kids.
This is a harsh reality, yet a story filled with optimism and simple pleasures, when an ice cream or chocolate candy can literally make someone's day. Spiridonov has done a remarkable job with both casting and directing non-professional actors. You probably will not find a more realistic look at modern orphans, and along with Mira Nair's Salaam Bombay, one of the best post-Dickensian orphan tales.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010