“My Dad is Baryshnikov” does two things and does them both beautifully. It tells a classic coming–of–age tale about a gangly boy named Boris who wants to be a ballet dancer, and it’s also a spot-on period piece.

Imagine Soviet Russia in the ‘80s, which is similar to America in the ‘70s: blue jeans, videocassettes and cheesy exercise videos with women sporting neon leg warmers. Except the blue jeans are from the black market and the videocassettes are banned.

That is half the world of young Boris Fishkin; the other half is the Russian ballet. Boris is a student at ballet school, but with his spaghetti arms and bumbling manners, he’s more often shown being bullied by the bigger male dancers and scolded by the teachers than pirouetting to his heart’s content.

One day, however, Boris’s single mom casually gives him a videotape of “White Nights,” a 1985 film starring the famed Russian dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, and Boris’s fantasies take over. He imagines himself as the son of the legendary Baryshnikov (his mom and grandparents are mum about his real father) and soon begins telling the kids at school just that, to humorous effect.

While it’s easy to laugh along to slapstick scenes of “My Dad is Baryshnikov,” it’s clear that they are not the whole story. At the heart of the film is a poignant look at the whimsical imaginings of a kid growing up in far–from–ideal circumstances, with dreams that somehow end up staying alive despite it all.

Directed by Dmitry Povolotsky Starring Vladimir Kapustin, Anna Mikhalkova, Lyudmila Titova

4/5 stars


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