The Italian Andrei Kravchuk

The Italian Andrei Kravchuk
Actually about a young Russian boy living in a Russian orphanage, The Italian is a somewhat misleading title. The titular Italian comes into play as a jealous taunt the other orphans pin to Vanya after an Italian family makes a bid to adopt him. To be adopted by wealthy, exotic parents would seem a dream to most orphans but Vanya harbours concerns that his real mother might still be alive and looking for him, a seed planted after the biological mother of a recently adopted friend shows up to beg for her son, only to die in drunken despair once she discovers she’s too late. Inspired, the brave and tenacious Vanya learns to read in order find his original address in his personal records, which he breaks into before fleeing the orphanage on a journey to find his mother, with the aid of a teen prostitute. All cast members, young and old, give compelling performances, imbued with honest humanity and stark conviction. Director Kravchuk’s greatest wisdom may be in sharing the characters’ restless personal habits, like the scene of Vanya stopping hurriedly to toss a rock at the railway tracks during his escape — no little boy can resist the satisfying clang of rock on metal, even while embarking on the adventure of his life. Moments like these are reminders that this is not a Hollywood film, and the resulting realism facilitates an emotional investment from the audience into the tragic lives on display that’s much greater than what can be negotiated by tidy conventional characters with clearly defined purposes tied to expected emotional responses. The Italian is content to guide the viewer through the hardships Vanya faces and dwell in the strength of human determination to make the best of life’s random circumstances. (Sony)