The Italian (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner24/01/2008

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 99 mins

Superbly written, impressively directed and extremely moving drama, featuring a heart-breaking performance from child actor Kolya Spirodonov.

What's it all about?
Six-year-old Vanya Solntsev (Kolya Spirodonov) is nicknamed the Italian and becomes the envy of the Russian orphanage where he lives when he's adopted by a rich Italian family, much to the delight of the orphanage's greedy Madam (Maria Kuznetsova). However, when a previously adopted boy's mother (Daria Lesnikova) comes looking for her son, Vanya starts to believe that his real mother might still be out there, so he sets off to find her before his adoption can be finalised.

The Good
There are echoes of Oliver Twist in this exceptional Russian drama, what with its gangs of streetwise orphans and several sharply observed characters (such as the drunken orphanage director and the greedy Madam) who wouldn't be out of place in a Dickens novel. There's even a kindly flame-haired prostitute (Olga Shuvalova as Irka) who takes Vanya under her wing and secretly teaches him to read so that he can get the addresses from his file.

Andrei Kravchuk's direction is extremely impressive - he creates a wholly believable little world in the orphanage (where the tough teenagers more or less rule the roost) and he orchestrates some extremely suspenseful scenes in the second half. In addition, he delivers several powerfully emotional moments without resorting to Hollywood-style sentimentality.

The Great
The performances are excellent, but the film belongs to six-year-old child actor Kolya Spirodonov, who is genuinely heart-breaking to watch. He also has phenomenal screen presence for such a young actor - the expression on his wide-eyed face will stay with you long after you leave the cinema (once you've wiped the tears from your eyes).

Worth seeing?
In short, The Italian is a superbly directed, beautifully acted drama that packs a powerful emotional punch and marks Andrei Kravchuk out as director to watch. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 22/09/2018 20:48

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