You know, I couldn’t quite figure out WHY Child 44 was getting panned by other critics but exalted by everyday viewers. Honestly, upon screening the film, I still am not 100% certain, BUT I have some idea.
First let’s talk about what works (and indeed there is A LOT of that to be had) so let’s get to it shall we?
Initially, I need to disclose something. I hadn’t read the book yet but upon hearing that Tom Hardy would star as Leo, there wasn’t any question that I would be seeing the film regardless of what I had to do in order to view it.
The theatre closest to us literally is ONLY showing Child 44 ONCE per day! As you can imagine that might make things a bit difficult, BUT, it does tend to create larger crowds mostly due to curiosity.
Leo is a Ukrainian orphan whose family was both killed in the siege that Russians had laid upon Ukraine called Holodomor. This was the genocide of the Ukrainian people by the USSR Russian government. They were literally STARVED to death and starved into submission.
As one can imagine, this experience had to weigh extremely heavy on a boy; that basically the only family he had DIED an extremely painful death from starvation rather than resort to cannibalism or other things.
Leo is taken in by a sympathetic Captain in the Russian army whom not only raises him, but indoctrinated him heavily into the machine that is Soviet Russia in the period between World Wars I and II.
Tom Hardy is absolutely SUBLIME in this film among so many others. He’s clearly read not only the script, but conducted much research on the genocide of these people. You can also tell he’s researched extensively into what his character’s language and mannerism would need to be in order to be convincing, and he does indeed do just that.
Throughout the film, there are quite a few times where you find yourself in a state of sadness because you’re watching him on-screen. You see the sadness behind his own eyes as he struggles to come to terms with what he has realised is truly going on in Stalin’s Russia. People are being hunted so much so that they are denouncing others left and right, whom haven’t ACTUALLY done anything, but simply expressed an opinion different from the doctrine of the Stalingrad Machine. FYI, Hardy’s Ukrainian accent is fantastic, I applaud his dialogue coach!!!
Raisa (played brilliantly by Noomi Rapace) and her connection to Leo, is solidified very early in the film, in fact only moments after the opening scene. Here at this table, is a dinner of SO many key players in this film and you feel that from the beginning. There is tension between Raisa and Leo yes, but there is also LOVE. These two are absolutely inter-connected “till death do us part” and that plays out so beautifully as the film progresses that when you get to the end of the film, you truly believe you haven’t wasted any energy pulling for and supporting them throughout! There are moments of regret, yes, but they are a minutia in comparison to the level of love and support that they give each other.
Excellent villains in Joel Kinnamon and Vincent Cassle, and then of course you have the Big Bad Wolf, whose name I won’t reveal for reasons you will no doubt notice when you screen the film. There is a well-played rivalry between Vasili (Kinnamon) and Leo and I have to admit I didn’t expect Kinnamon to be able to handle that as well as he did.
Brilliant addition of Gary Oldman whom is also a mentor to Tom Hardy and a key part of Leo’s ability to do what he knows in his heart is the right thing. Oldman provides a season talent and a leveling of the film which has many twists and turns and so many peaks and valleys you think you’re on a roller coaster. And that brings me to what does NOT work in this film.
There’s far too many stories being told in this film at once!
If you’re like me and you attempted to count and STOPPED because your other hand was busy well…Anyway, the thing is, I almost feel like here should have been three films, a true trilogy indeed because there are at least 5 stories that are being told and they feel INCOMPLETE. And you want more.
You want a prequel to Leo being found and raised.
You want the story of how Leo and Raisa met and how over the years they have dealt with the very difficult times in their marriage, mostly but not always because of what he does for a living.
You want the story of why Leo and Vasili are at such odds (mind you, in a sense you know partly why but there’s not enough there to justify….).
You want the story of HOW Stalin’s government was able to keep the murders of 45 children quiet for SO long, and why only ONE man chose to no longer accept the status quo and do what could potentially see him and his beloved wife murdered by firing squad.
There’s SO MUCH more to this outstanding film that as much as it gives, as much as it does, it’s still lacking of effort. Nothing ever beats a failure but a try. And while Child 44 is definitely NOT a failure and an absolute #MUSTSEE, it’s something I wish had tried a bit harder, even with the potential failure ahead.
Courage in film is what drives so many filmmakers to take chances and do things that no one else can imagine them being able to do.
Our Resident Movie Reviewer Joyll Cambridge hails from Manchester, United Kingdom and currently lives in New York, New York. She loves all things movies, fitness and swirling. To read Joyll’s personal blog at The Humanist Exec, click here.
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Copyright ©2015 Michelle Matthews Calloway, ASwirlGirl™, The Swirl World™, The Swirl World Podcast™, The Swirl World Inspiration Daily™, Swirl Nation™, All rights reserved. Photo of Joyll Cambridge used with permission. Movie poster of Child 44 obtained here. All rights reserved.