Release Date: January 19th, 2007 (Quad Cinema and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas) by Sony Pictures Classics.
The Cast: Kolya Spiridonov, Maria Kuznetsova, Yuri Itskov, Darya Lesnikova, Nikolai Reutov.
Directed by Andrei Kravchuk.
In Russian with subtitles.
BASIC PREMISE: Vanya (Spiridonov), a 6-year-old orphan, treks back to Russia to search for his real mother.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: The Italian has a mostly engaging yet slightly contrived plot which follows Vanya as he sets out on a journey to find his birth mother. The first act introduces his bleak environment at the Russian orphanage, where other orphans nickname him “The Italian” because a wealthy Italian couple wants to adopt him. However, he prefers to find his real mother, so he finds his file containing her address and learns how to read. Soon enough, he escapes the orphanage to locate his mother. His only obstacle is the orphanage’s strict, unlikable madam (Kuznetsova). Throughout this lengthy second act, Vanya basically tries to avoid being caught by the madam as he treks out by foot, train and bus. Screenwriter Andrei Romanov doesn’t allow the screenplay to maintain its authentic feeling throughout this adventure—it feels a bit contrived at times, such as when Vanya briefly meets an exceptionally generous woman on a train and, in a later scene, he gets attacked by two young bullies. Each of the well-cast actors, nonetheless, helps to enliven the film with their very convincing performance, especially Kolya Spiridonov as the adorable, likable Vanya and Maria Kuznetsova as the mean madam. It’s also worth mentioning that director Andrei Kravchuk includes impressive cinematography which makes the most of the bleak settings. Unfortunately, the third act feels a bit underwhelming and ends rather abruptly.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: Much of the first act feels moving as Vanya longs to escape the orphanage. All he wants is what everyone deserves to have: a normal, happy childhood. He certainly seems quite brave to go on this adventure alone and to risk his life just to feel the love of his real mother.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: A slightly contrived second act.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 1
IN A NUTSHELL: Strong performance, moving and engaging, but slightly contrived and underwhelming.
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater
The "I" Menu