A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Kolya is an Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Language Film, and while it has some very kid-friendly themes involving an adorable 5-year-old, the movie involves mature subjects, as well. The central adult character is quite a womanizer and while sex is never shown, there are lots of rumpled sheets and bare legs in the picture. There's also lots of drinking and smoking (it's Europe in the late '80s) and a smattering of swearing (including "s--t") in the subtitles. The subtitles go by pretty fast, too. Fast reading skills and a little background on what was happening politically in Czechoslovakia in 1988 will help younger foreign language fans fully appreciate this lovely film.
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What's the story?
Louka (Zdenek Sverak) is a confirmed bachelor in 1988 Prague who plays his cello at funerals and restores tombstones for a living after falling out of favor with the philharmonic orchestra. He's barely making ends meet and knows he can get to more gigs with a used car. And his mother's house needs new gutters. So he accepts his friend's proposition of a lucrative arranged marriage with a Russian interpreter who's trying to keep herself and her 5-year-old son Kolya (Andrei Chalimon) in the country. Or so she says. After the faux wedding she takes off to West Germany and leaves Kolya with his grandmother. From West Germany she hopes to get the right paperwork to bring Kolya along but it will take time. While she's gone grandma has a stroke and Kolya ends up where else but on Louka's doorstep. What's a bachelor to do?
Is it any good?
This is an enjoyable, touching film. The "confirmed bachelor transformed by child" theme has been done so many times; think cheesy '80s hits like Baby Boom and Three Men and a Baby and poignant heart-wrenchers like The Professional. As you might expect from an Oscar winner, KOLYA is closer to The Professional in poignancy -- minus the drug stash and shoot-outs.
The beautiful Prague backdrop just before the fall of communism adds the extra intrigue. So does Louka's complex womanizing character. There's no liking him while he's drunk and piggish toward his faux Russian wife or dumping Kolya in the bath so he can have a tryst, but there's something endearing about his holey socks and the way he listens to his mother. He's a man ripe for a transformative experience and viewers are sure to be moved by it, even if they know what's coming from a mile away.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Czechoslovakia in 1988 when Kolya is set. What did you know about the country's history before seeing the movie? What else can you find out and where?
What do you think of Louka? Is he a good caregiver? How does he change during the film? How does he stay the same?
What other movies can you think of with confirmed bachelors finding their soft sides? What's unique about this take on the story? What's the same?
- In theaters: January 24, 1997
- On DVD or streaming: July 2, 2002
- Cast: Andrei Chalimon, Libuse Safrankova, Zdenek Sverak
- Director: Jan Sverak
- Studio: Miramax
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 105 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some sensuality
- Awards/Honors: Academy Award, Golden Globe
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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