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Jan Sverak's story of a middle-aged Czech cellist (Zdenek Sverak, who also wrote the screenplay) who, on the eve of the 1988 Velvet Revolution, suddenly winds up with a five-year-old Russian-speaking boy (Andrej Chalimon) on his hands.

Adam Mars-Jones approved, noting "classically heart-warming elements and scenes [but] the film has more to offer ... a pleasingly paradoxical atmosphere". "The more you think about it - and it's hard not to - the weightier Kolya seems; and that makes its apparent slenderness all the more impressive," beamed The Daily Telegraph. "Every rise in temperature is achieved by careful observation of ordinary life, spry comic timing and the gentlest humour," smiled The Times. "The longer the film progresses, the better it becomes, and the natural, unforced acting of Chalimon is a joy," enthused The Guardian. "Both characters charm us near to death, though the director keeps winsomeness at bay with moments of bleak, if not black, comedy," frowned The FT.

Cert 12, 105 mins, Curzon Mayfair (0171-369 1720) and on selected release

A film of pleasing surprises, thanks to a good script and a tremendous performance from Andrej Chalimon as the boy. A popular, well-deserved winner of the Oscar for Best Foreign Film.

Leonard Foglia directs Patti LuPone as the great diva Maria Callas in Terrence McNally's bio-play set during a series of master classes. With singers Sophia Wylie, Susan Roper and David Maxwell Anderson and accompanist David Shrubsole.

Paul Taylor declared, "Not since Dame Edna was hoisted by a hydraulic lift, high above the audience, singing of her painful shyness, has there been a more monumental example of camp disingenuousness." "A sustained exercise in camp, it ... made me shake with rage," cried the FT. "Homespun, laughable drivel, masquerading as profundity ... Foglia's strident production, full of pent-up caricature," growled the Standard. "Big flashbacks are simply a new-readers-start-here attempt to fill us in," rumbled The Guardian. "The thrilling spectacle of an artist triumphing over her material, willing an audience into submission," sang The Daily Telegraph. "A feat of technique, nervous energy, intelligence and style ... a standing ovation-grade performance," trilled the Mail.

At the Queen's Theatre, London W1 (0171-494 5040) to 19 July

LuPone gives her considerable all but the production is crass, to put it mildly. If you know about Callas, it will annoy you; if you don't, it will mislead you. Makes other dull dramas about art, such as Old Wicked Songs, look good. How many more bio-play star-turns do we have to put up with?

The first commercial show in years from Britain's most famous living artist consists of boldly coloured paintings of vases of lilies, sunflowers and more exotic blooms (inspired by last year's Vermeer show) plus 24 portraits of himself, his friends and family.

Tom Lubbock was deeply disappointed. "Anyone holding out for the good old cause of painting had better take their stand quite a long way away from this." "Hockney stands in this show armed only with the talent in his brush. It isn't quite enough," sighed The Sunday Times. "Sensuous, joyful, but also strangely empty," judged the Express. "The flower paintings teeter on the edge of banality ... but the best strike me as among the better things that Hockney has done ... He is neither so good as was once thought, nor as bad as now is often said," judged the Telegraph. "Ecstatic still- lives ... a militant colourist," announced The Guardian. "Why worry if features don't quite add up? With Hockney, it's on to the next, and the next," murmured The Observer.

At the Annely Juda Gallery, 23 Dering St, London W1 to 19 July

How many of these would stand out from the packed walls of the RA's summer exhibition? In the flowers, the saturated colours do produce a luminosity, but a pointless one. The portraits, framed as a group, coalesce into a blur. Of Hockney, the great draughtsman, there is little sign.


Master Class


David Hockney