A small-scale drama in the post-Soviet Union has the feeling of an adaptation of Charles Dickens.
The setting of The Italian is a remote, sad orphanage with sensitivity for the disheveled state of the nation at a time in the late 20th century.
A young lad, a bit gullible, is up for adoption by an Italian couple, but Vanya (Kolya Spiridonov) isn't excited by the idea of relocating to a place far less dreary and claustrophic as much as one might think.
The wisely crafted feature by Andrei Kravchuk has him on a quest to search out his birth mother after one learns the goings-on at the orphanage where the kids make money through some unsavory means.
Andrei Romanov's screenplay has a riveting quality to it from the way Vanya understands how a good, honest future can come from such a wanton lifestyle.
Spiridonov endows Vanya a quietly courageous quality that helps The Italian eschew a sappiness it might otherwise caress in the assurance to reach one's true sanctuary. Though some emoting comes from a domineering Maria Kuznetsova as the orphanage headmaster, a bold broker of sorts, Kravchuk is able to make a poignant statement from dark, treacherous ambiguities.