The Italian | Chicago Reader

The Italian

This 2005 story about a Russian boy whose mother has given him up may be derivative, but it's still engrossing, largely because of its appealing juvenile lead, Kolya Spiridonov. After the collapse of the Soviet regime, life in the hinterlands is relentlessly grim for abandoned and orphaned children. Exploited by Dickensian profiteers, they turn to theft and prostitution to buy necessities yet remain supportive of those lucky enough to be placed in European homes, including Spiridonov's character. The stark, mystical beauty of the Russian landscape informs the people he encounters on his journey to find his real mother, and the film becomes something of a portrait of a nation lumbering toward reinvention. Andrei Kravchuk directs with, thankfully, little sentimentality. In Russian with subtitles. PG-13, 99 min.

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