The Student | Chicago Reader

The Student

118 minutes 2016

In this Russian drama, a suburban teenager converts to Orthodox Christianity and determines to eradicate the godless ways he sees around him, taking aim at his divorced mother, his gym coach (who allows girls to wear bikinis to swim class), and his liberal biology teacher (who informs her students about safe sex and the theory of evolution). The tone oscillates between hard-hitting drama and broad comedy, creating a nervous energy that conveys the adults' anxiety about how far the boy will go in his proselytizing. Director Kirill Serebrennikov, adapting The Martyr by German playwright Marius von Mayenburg, has said he intended to critique the growing influence of Orthodox Christianity and hard-right politics in Russian society. His social criticism can be heavy-handed, but his direction of actors (many of whom had never appeared in a movie before this one) is remarkable; Pyotr Skvortsov is terrifying in the lead. In Russian with subtitles.

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