Charmingly played, full of ethnic detail and helmed with care by first-time director Aktan Abdykalykov, “The Adopted Son” still has a terribly familiar feel that detracts from its obviously heartfelt, semi-autobiographical tone. Patchwork story about a young kid in a Kirghizian village who discovers he is adopted will appeal to auds entranced by such fare, but they will mostly be viewers of specialized tube channels.
Adyr is a happy-go-lucky boy, on the verge of adolescence, who fools around with his friends in mud pits where the locals make bricks, harbors vague stirrings for a pretty teenage girl and generally engages in the usual prepubescent pranks. Occasionally, his parents let him go to outdoor screenings (on a single battered projector) of song-and-dance movies. But when it’s revealed that he is adopted, his friends turn against him, and a death in the family brings another rude change to his existence.
Shooting in B&W, with occasional inserts in vivid color to remind the viewer of the true hues of the boy’s world, Abdykalykov has produced a smoothly mounted movie in which not a lot goes on and which does not make any significant virtues of its minimalist content. Some sequences are genuinely funny — such as the boys having sex with the figure of a woman made of sand — but for the most part the movie is high on charm and details of rural life but low on original content.
Performances by the kids are vivid, and by the elders more iconographic. Tech credits are pristine, with the monochrome photography in the print caught often looking as if it has been lightly tinted.