Vanya is a 6 year old orphan living in a rundown orphanage in a remote Russian village. For Vanya and the other children, life is without hope, unless, of course, they are adopted by wealthy foreigners. For Vanya, hope comes in the form of an Italian couple. But while arrangements are being made an incident occurs when the mother of another child appears, seeking her son. Vanya begins to wonder what would happen if his own mother reappeared, and he was living in Italy.With the assistance of older children, Vanya is able to access his records and find the possible whereabouts of his mother. He escapes and travels across the country, pursued by the adoption agents. Written by
Despite a title that hints at a modern-day stab at Italian neo-realism in the vein of The Bicycle Thieves, as others have noted, Andrei Kravchuk's The Italian plays very much like a Charles Dickens story - had Dickens been Russian and alive in the 21st century. Vanya Soltnsev (Kolya Spiridonov) is the modern-day Oliver Twist in a particularly bleak Russian orphanage run by the corrupt Madam and a weak-willed headmaster, both turning a profit on arranging adoptions for foreign couples. But when a mother who abandoned her child appears at the orphanage in a vain attempt to be reunited, he becomes obsessed with the possibility that his own mother might still want him and determines to find her in the big city - but Madam has already sold him to an Italian couple and sets off in hot pursuit...
It's a sincere film, but it doesn't quite hit home as hard as it wants to. The first half of the film paints in the details of the everyday corruption in the orphanage, where the corrupt adult administration is mirrored by an equally corrupt gang of children, but despite the grey, colourless stones it doesn't anger or outrage as much as it could. Possibly modern audiences have become slightly desensitised to this kind of material from decades of news exposes, but the first half of the film does tend to drag a little before Vanya makes his escape. It's in this section that the film really comes to life, gradually accumulating color and vitality denied the early scenes as Vanya is both helped and hindered by those he meets on his way to the big city, and it's here that the film finally starts to engage the emotions and gets you rooting for him. The ending might be a little unlikely, but Dickens certainly would have approved
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