My Dad is Baryshnikov: Film Review

Lightweight comedy follows a teen's dream of dance stardom in 1986 Russia.

Dmitry Povolotsky and Mark Drugoi's feature debut follows a dance student who dreams of becoming a star in 1980s Russia.

SEATTLE — The starry-eyed ballet dreams of Billy Elliot meet a cynical Russian sense of humor in My Dad is Baryshnikov, the feature debut of Dmitry Povolotsky and Mark Drugoi. More likable than coherent, it could reach a modest arthouse audience thanks to its goofy-charming hero and evocation of Perestroika-era Russia.

Dmitri Viskubenko plays Boris Fishkin, a dance student who has managed not to get kicked out of the Bolshoi's academy despite lacking talent, grace, or physique. Gangly and blank-faced, he's the Pee Wee Herman of the school, somehow convinced he doesn't look like a child among these strapping young men and poised ballerinas.

But when one of his mother's boyfriends gives him a contraband VHS of Baryshnikov performances, a ridiculous notion gets planted in Boris's head. Strangely, believing that his runaway father was actually the megastar defector gives Boris just enough mojo we wonder if he might make his dreams come true.

Povolotsky and Drugoi work the economic realities of their (convincingly drawn) 1986 setting into the story, having Boris earn some self-confidence, and clout among schoolmates, via black-market entrepreneurship. What's less convincing is how the kid's antics -- like stealing a definitely undeserved curtain call during a performance for the Queen of Spain -- not only don't immediately end his ballet career, but seem to perpetuate it.

Throughout, though, the guilelessness on Viskubenko's face makes the silliness easier to swallow. And though there's a narrative rough patch before it arrives, the movie's punch-line ending may be its most plausible element.

Venue: Seattle International Film Festival
Production Company: New People Film Company
Cast: Dmitri Viskubenko, Anna Mikhalkova, Vladimir Kasputin, Ilya Rutberg, Marina Politseimako, Lyudmilla Titova
Director: Dmitry Povolotsky, Mark Drugoi
Screenwriter: Dmitry Povolotsky
Producers: Ulyana Savelieva, Nataliya Mokritskaya
Director of photography: Sergei Mokritskiy
Music: Alexander Manotskov
Costume designer: Valeria Rusakova
Editor: Olga Greenshpun
PG, 88 minutes