A 9-year-old boy struggles to get by at school and at home after being abandoned by most of his family in “Little Brother,” a Kazakh drama that in itself feels like a gentler-tempered, less sophisticated sibling of “Harmony Lessons,” a recent Berlinale competitor from the same country. Writer-helmer Seric Aprymov goes easy on the sentimentality and elicits pretty good performances from his mostly non-pro cast, but there’s not much here that hasn’t been seen in a lot of like-minded other films. The best bet for “Little Brother” would be to ride “Harmony Lessons’” coattails into rephouse seasons profiling new Kazakh cinema.
Stoic schoolboy Yerkin (Almat Galym, adorable) is living all by himself in the family home given that Mom is dead, Dad is permanently away “on business” and big brother Aidis (Alisher Aprymov) is away studying in the city. When not at school, where he’s bullied and seen as a trouble maker by teachers, he’s fending for himself making bricks by hand, although adults exploit his innocence to rip him off. Things improve a bit when Aidis comes home, but not much. Humorous moments and the final good-guys’ triumph lighten the mood somewhat.