After the events in The Childhood of Maxim Gorky, Young Peshkov is working for a middle class family, ostensibly as an aid to the architect son of the family, but the mean spirited mother keeps him from learning anything and insists on him doing menial jobs. He finds solace in books lent to him by a friendly rich woman (a friendly rich woman in a Soviet film? Apparently it's possible!). When the family kick him out, he must find his own place in the world.
Because Peshkov is drifting from job to job in this movie, the narrative becomes very episodic and sometimes feels as steerless and uncertain about where it wants to go as its protagonist. The movie makes the point that reading books is good for you, but somewhat overstates its case. When Peshkov is employed in an icon-workshop and starts reading aloud for the monks, their reaction is so euphoric, you'd think he mixed some illegal substances in their borsht.
Nevertheless, the great cinematography, visual poetry and rich characterisations from the first movie are still in place.
*** (out of 4)
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