The Italian (12A)

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The Independent Culture

The atmosphere of this runaway melodrama is Dickensian, though its social problem – child-trafficking – belongs to modern Russia. When six-year-old Vanya (Kolya Spiridonov) is selected for adoption by a rich Italian couple, his orphanage is revealed as a savage Fagin's den where the young inmates are as predatory as the officials, personified in the avaricious adoption broker (Maria Kuznetsova).

Vanya decides his own fate by escaping and going in search of his birth mother. Spiridinov's waifish face is an invitation to pathos – call him Oliver Twistov – though director Andrei Kravchuk's broader perspective on the meltdown of post-Communist Russia also comes through strongly.