Review: Italianetz (2005)


Directed by: Andrei Kravchuk | 90 minutes | drama, family | Actors: Kolya Spiridonov, Olga Shuvalova, Sasha Sirotkin, Nikolai Reutov, Yuriy Itskov, Denis Moiseenko, Andrei Yelizarov, Polina Vorobyova, Dima Zemlyanko, Daria Lesnikova, Maria Kuznetsova

An Italian couple comes to Russia to choose a child. They want to adopt one and use the services of the madam of the house to find the cutest child. It’s a matter of doing business in a world that permits it because of its poverty and unity. Most children are clear that it is all about money for the hardened madame, but they work on the stage in the hope one day of finding adoptive parents and building a better life elsewhere. Young Vanya seems to have found happiness when the Italian couple choose him as their new child. He is soon referred to by everyone as the Italian (Italianetz) and considered lucky by everyone. But Vanya has other plans. He starts to think about where his mother would be, unsure if she is still alive. He decides to look for her and, despite all the opposition from the orphanage he faces, is determined to find her.

“Italianetz” touches on some of the themes that were also featured in the recent Russian film “Vozvrashcheniye” (also known as “The Return”). The lack of a parent, the poverty and the roughness of growing up are convincingly portrayed in both films and children are always central. They are children who grow old quickly in an adult, often harsh environment, but still retain some of their childhood innocence. The fact that this childish innocence remains visible makes “Italianetz” bearable for the viewer. All the misery that arises before and during the search for his mother is mixed with the open-mindedness of Vanya, who moreover manages to get through everything with the help of a few others. The film thus conveys a kind of hopeful message, and does not lapse – despite the plot might suggest otherwise – into mere pessimistic drama.

The decoration of the film is sober. For example, little use is made of music and calm images ensure that full attention is paid to the story and the strong acting. In particular, the young Kolya Spiridonov as Vanya manages to convince as a calm, introverted orphan who seems to have happiness at hand, but is still determined to find his mother again. Just like the design, the acting is modest. The emotion is never too obvious, but the feeling remains subtle. With this lack of sentiment overload, “Italianetz” distinguishes itself from many other dramas and maintains the credibility these films require. With a calm pace, Vanya’s story develops to a fitting climax and the patient viewer is thus well rewarded.

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