All God's Children (Toti Copiii Domnului) (NR)

Drama 105 November 22, 2013
By Inkoo Kang
Oliver Twist should be grateful he was only beaten, starved and overworked. In the Moldovan social drama All God's Children, the first film submitted for Oscar consideration by Europe's poorest country, a much bleaker fate hangs over little Pavalas (Emergian Cazac). If his mother (Ina Surdu) can't convince a Canadian-Moldovan couple to adopt him for a hefty fee, her pimp, Bruno (Paolo Seganti), will sell the 9-year-old boy to sex traffickers or organ harvesters. Made with the eager didacticism and production values of an after-school special, All God's Children is a shameless yank at the heartstrings. The surprise of director Adrian Popovici's film, though, is that it mostly works. With the big eyes, squirmy instincts and dull intelligence of a puppy, Pavalas commands little audience interest. But his mother, Irina, does; she's as pitiful and na•ve as her son but also plagued with self-delusion. Her initial scheme, which sets off the plot, is to sell Pavalas to an adoptive family, use that money to pay for her freedom from her pimp, open up her own brothel, then use the proceeds to get Pavalas back. It might be funny if it weren't so terribly sad. When Irina is with her friend and fellow prostitute Tatiana (Rodika Oantsa), in bed together dreaming of the future or posing as sassy, middle-class gals on a weekend jaunt for border patrollers, the film finally frames them as recognizable human beings. But an eleventh-hour twist unnecessarily attempts to redeem Irina, reducing the film to yet another dreary illustration of female victimhood.
Adrian Popovici


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