Arnas Fedaravicius, Peter Stormare, John Malkovich, Vilius Tumalavicius, Eleanor Tomlinson, Jonas Trukanas, Vitalij Porshnev, Arnas Sliesoraitis, Pijus Grude, Ernestas Markevicius, Erikas Zaremba, Arvydas Lebeliunas, Viktoras Karpusenkovas, Daiva Stumbraite
Kolyma (Arnas Fedaravicius) and Gagarin (Vilius Tumalavicius) grow up like brothers, raised by Kolyma's grandfather Kuzja (John Malkovich) who imposes very strict education to the children, focusing on hatred for the Soviets. In a robbery by two boys and two friends of theirs, Gagarin is stopped and arrested. Seven years later he is freed, but the world has changed, and he ends up in strong contrast with Kolyma.
I did not read the book of Russian writer Lilin, but I read that the film doesn't stick much to the book. Now I believe that a film doesn't need to be identical to the book to be appreciated. However, still based on what I read about the book, I feel like the film could have been so much better.
Very interesting in terms of acting and aesthetic, Siberian Education is pretty much an ordinary gangster movie that seems half accomplished.
I'm really impressed that Italian director Gabriele Salvatores has tried something new, and has dealt with a part of history most of us don't know, but the film does have its flaws.
The main problem is the screenplay. Stefano Rulli, Sandro Petraglia and Salvatores do not find a way to carry the story, not even with the help of Lilin himself, and the result is a quite awkward script that alternates well made parts - childhood, criminal education, and carousel scene - to incomplete ones - the arrival of Xenya doesn't not bring the emotions it was supposed to, and the ending is nothing but hurried and also lacks emotions.
Despite many said they are different from the book, the characters are very interesting, in particular the extraordinary figure of Granpa Kuzja, reference point both of his family and of the Siberian clan. But, again, the character of Xenya has not been properly written.
The good thing is that the film gives some lessons that break off from the modern society we live in. First of all, money, whether they come from good or bad, is dirty. Second, we must help, and defend the weakest, because they are not able to do it themselves.
The acting steps up the film's game. When it comes to bad guys John Malkovich is the right pick. He lights up the film every time he is on screen, and delivers a stunning performance as the Russian Godfather, and makes you almost forget the fact that the characters speak English, with an accent but still English, instead of their native language. The others, Arnas Fedaravicius, Vilius Tumalavicius, Peter Stormare and Eleanor Tomlinson all do a fine job.
Grandfather Kuzya: Man cannot possess more than his heart can love.