A career criminal traveling across Russia in 1952 takes up with a woman he meets on a train and becomes a powerful force in the life of her young son. Told from the perspective of the boy (Misha Philipchuk), with voice-over narration by him as an adult, this drama also enables us to identify with his mother (Ekaterina Rednikova) and the thief (Vladimir Mashkov), who poses as a soldier to deflect suspicion, instantly winning people’s trust with his uniform and charm or bending them to his will with intimidation and almost eerily restrained violence. This provocatively cynical 1997 story of a fatherless boy’s relationship with a father figure is emotionally potent as well as obviously allegorical; in showing how the vulnerable may respond to authority, writer-director Pavel Chukhrai seems equally bitter and enthralled.