“My little boy looks just like me,” Slavik says lovingly to his son, who is holding the camera. “But without this belly.” The ex-convict is visiting a friend, with whom he listens to music, philosophizes about God, and drinks vodka.
Twenty-three-year-old Vitaly Akimov portrays his family in the shrinking Russian provincial town of Arsenyev. Ten-year-old Stepan, his brother’s stepson, acts as a guide to this grim environment, appropriately filmed in black and white. He strums his guitar, fetches water, or plays kindly with his little half-brother. He also witnesses another side of life. Slightly embarrassed, he gingerly walks around his stepfather sleeping off the drink, soaked his own urine on the kitchen floor. Stepan talks cheerfully about the horrific events of his life, or shares his deeper thoughts.
His spontaneity and Akimov’s playful camerawork bring a lightness and beauty to this tragic portrait of boys and men, fathers and sons—not necessarily in order of age.