Pete On The Way To Heaven

Pete On The Way To Heaven

**1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Nikolai Dostal's film took away the top award at the Moscow Film Festival, the Golden Saint George - yet the action, though well acted and offering a snapshot of rural Russia in the Fifties, offers little in the way of innovation or even a gripping story.

Part of the problem lies in the film's title - which clearly telegraphs the likely end point for Pete (Egor Pavlov), the film's central protagonist. Even if it didn't, it is pretty obvious from the outset that this young naif with learning difficulties is unlikely to live a long and prosperous life in the outer reaches of Russia. Still, the locals like him and tolerate his slightly off-kilter ways, nurturing his belief that he is a bona fide traffic cop, although they stop short of letting him get his hands on a weapon, fobbing him off instead with a wooden gun.

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Others in the higher echelons, however, are less sympathetic, such as the head of a local Gulag (Roman Madyanov) who, of course, is in many ways a bigger 'fool' that Pete. This sort of character predictability is the biggest problem with the film. We've seen all these people before, from the powerful idiot who still gets everyone - including the best looking woman in town - to do his bidding, to Pete himself, every inch the cypher in a long Russian tradition of 'holy fools', used to point out the folly of others rather than actually being a 'real' character we can connect with and root for. Where the successful Forrest Gumps of this world, take us with us on their odysseys, we never really get to know what Pete thinks, beyond his desire to be his definition a good Stalinist. Also, the film lacks any real sense of structure or plot development until its final section offers the inevitable peril for Pete.

Dostal's film is technically adept, with good use being made of the snow-covered landscape to point out both the harshness of the Gulag and the austerity of the last days of Stalin - but this coldness extends to the script, which leaves you unable to muster any sympathy. Worth a watch for the vivid portrait of the time period but not a film that lingers in the memory.

Reviewed on: 31 Oct 2009
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A smalltown boy lives a fantasy life of a cop, indulged by the other residents, but trouble is on the horizon.
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Forrest Gump