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The Italian 

click to enlarge 23_0012_italian.jpg
Six-year-old Vanya lives in a bleak, provincial Russian orphanage. When he's chosen to be adopted by an affluent Italian couple, it's a windfall he cautiously embraces. But a stray encounter with the distraught mother of another adopted child plants a seed of uncertainty in his mind. What if his real mother is looking for him? With a child's simple logic, he undertakes a mildly treacherous and occasionally picaresque journey to resolve the question. While Andrei Kravchuk's film just barely grazes sentimentality, Koyla Spiridonov's unaffected performance as Vanya helps root the melodrama, as does the shabby milieu and the film's explicit reminders of various failed Soviet and Russian policies. In Vanya's small sphere, everything is for sale, from a winsome child to protection from bullies to reading lessons. Yet his goal has an admirable naïve purity. As privileged Westerners, we're inclined to root for Vanya to start a new life in Italy, with all its glossy promise -- or should he stay, embraced by a troubled but rich history, in his literal motherland? In Russian, with subtitles. Starts Fri., June 8, through Sun., June 10. Melwood (AH)

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