Combustible Celluloid
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With: Kolya Spiridinov, Denis Moiseenko, Mariya Kuznetsova, Polina Vorobjeva, Olga Shuvalova, Nikolai Reutov
Written by: Andrei Romanov
Directed by: Andrei Kravchuk
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some violence, sexual content, language and thematic issues
Language: Russian with English subtitles
Running Time: 99
Date: 03/19/2013

The Italian (2007)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Twisting Oliver

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

A six year-old Russian orphan, Vanya (played by the remarkably expressive Kolya Spiridonov), is to be adopted by an Italian family, but refuses to give up hope that his birth mother will come looking for him. It sounds like the kind of glossy coming-of-age twaddle that has plagued art houses for years, but director Andrei Kravchuk gives The Italian a Dickensian spirit, full of dire twists, nasty villains and other colorfully seedy characters; Vanya's biggest help comes from a redheaded teenage prostitute (Olga Shuvalova), whose income goes to the thugs that run the orphanage. The film finds a refreshing place between depressing realism and soft, protective attitudes towards children and their adventures; it actually celebrates Vanya's irrepressible ingenuity and determination.

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