We gave it an A-
It’s easy to see why Kolya won an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film: It’s a heart melter. We’re in Prague, 1988, just before the so-called Velvet Revolution, and Frantisek Louka (Zdenek Sverak, who also wrote the screenplay), a swinging middle-aged bachelor and professional cellist whose bad attitude toward authority has reduced his employment opportunities to playing funeral gigs, agrees to marry a pretty young Russian woman (Irena Livanova) who requires Czech papers in exchange for much-needed cash. She, however, promptly bolts to a lover in Germany, leaving behind her 6-year-old son, Kolya (Andrej Chalimon), who speaks no Czech (Louka speaks no Russian) but whose sweet, lively innocence stirs up a revolution in the old guy’s cynical heart and augurs the pleasures of freedom. Director Jan Sverak (son of the appealing star) uses a light hand for what could have been a sappy allegory. And little, runny-nosed Chalimon is a gem.