Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Italian

There are lots of good things about this film. It has a really cute star, a great plot and it's about a topic I haven't encountered in a movie before - intercountry adoption. It also makes you think about levels of morality and whether the characters' misdeeds better or worse than those perpetrated by their counterparts and at what age people should be held accountable for their actions.

Six year-old Vanya (the cute one!) lives in a children's home somewhere outside St Petersburg . The headmaster is a crook and an alcoholic but the major force in the children's lives is the mafia-style operation run by the teenage residents from the furnace room. Any gifts received by the children , or money raised by activities like windscreen washing or prostitution has to be handed to the mafiosi, who distribute the loot as they see fit.

One snowy day "Madam" arrives with an Italian couple who are looking to adopt a child. Vanya is selected, the Italians pay up and Madam and the headmaster split the money. The paperwork is expected to take eight weeks or so, and the Italians return home while Vanya is left to celebrate his good fortune. However, not long afterwards he meets the mother of the last little boy to be adopted by foreigners who has come in search of her child. She commits suicide when she finds out her child's fate and Vanya worries about what would happen if his own mother comes in search of him after he's left for Italy. Appealing as a new life in Italy sounds, being reunited with his mother sounds even better.

So Vanya sets out to track down his Mum. He has to steal his personal file from the headmaster's safe, learn to read, get to St Petersburg, find his Mother's house and evade the pursuit of Madam and her chauffeur. You'll have to watch the movie to find out how it ends.

I particularly enjoyed the chauffeur chasing Vanya through the streets, and the bedtime stories at a Russian children's home being Winnie the Pooh and The Jungle Book. It was also interesting to notice that most Russian doorbells are out of reach for a child - it would make trick-or-treating challenging.

My rating 4/5.

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