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Ivan Mirosnikov, a cheeky young man in the Gorbachev era, is trying to figure out what to do with his life (he's not in college, and the 2-year mandatory military service is looming large ahead of him). Meanwhile, he lives with his divorced mother, and works as a courier at a Russian newspaper. Through his job, he meets patronizing Professor Kuznetzov and his rebellious daughter Katya. To annoy the professor, Ivan claims to have an affair with Katya. To his surprise, Katya backs his story up. Written by
The Messenger Boy brought the "gritty reality" of the time approaching the end of the Soviet Union to the screen in a much more enjoyable way than other Chernukhas like Little Vera. Although the main character Ivan represents the rebellion and insolence that was associated with the young generation of the time without any restraint, there was an underlying positive quality, almost a purity, in him that singled him out as an authentic, "good" person of the time.
A great way to describe this masked purity would be to compare Ivan with Holden Caulfield, the protagonist of J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. Both characters share a certain "unlikeability" among their elders and the older generation of the society of which they are part, but their frankness is seen as a positive directional icon to their own generation. Each dropped out of school and flops around society with either a poor job or none at all, but is nevertheless seen as a lost child in a dirty world, and hence pitied for their genuineness. Katia enjoyed Ivan's tactless mannerisms much like Holden's friends (however few) enjoyed his general apathy--they felt a bond with each representation of the "lost generation."
The movie truly made one feel for Ivan's plight--it's not that he did not care, it is simply that the society of which he was part was falling apart, so their expectations on his behavior did not do much. It is precisely this truth, this authenticity, that made Ivan, and the entire movie, so enjoyable to watch. Finally, props to Oleg Basilashvili, the actor who played Katia's father, to be able to switch roles so effectively from The Autumn Marathon as Bouzikin to The Messenger Boy-- it almost seemed like nothing had changed, it is just that time has passed between the two, which further adds to the truth value of this particular film.
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