(director/writer: Dorota Kedzierzawska ; cinematographer: Arthur Reinhart; editor: Reinhart, Kedzierzawska; music: Michael Nyman; cast: Piotr Jagielski (Kundel), Agnieszka Nagorzycka (Kuleczka), Edyta Jungowska (Kundel’s Mother), Basia Szkaluba (Kuleczka’s sister), Pawel Wilczak (Kuleczka’s Father), Marcin Sztabinski (Chudy), Lucjan Bienkowski (Stary), Agnieszka Podsiadli (Waitress); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Artur Reinhart; Kid Film; 2005-Poland-in Polish with English subtitles)

“A brilliantly achieved harrowing survival drama about a homeless youngster.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Polish helmer Dorota Kedzierzawska(“The Crows”) presents a brilliantly achieved harrowing survival drama about a homeless youngster, which is shot from the kid’s point of view. Her film was partly inspired by a newspaper report of a real home-less adolescent who spent six months living in an abandoned shed in Poland while neighbors noticed but kept quiet. The 11-year-old runaway from a repressive children’s orphanage home is called Kundel (Piotr Jagielski), even though his name is not Mongrel. He says at one point “I have no name … I am.”

After insulted at the home, he hops the fence and then hops a train to return to his rural hometown. His neglectful mom (Edyta Jungowska) is a drunk. They have an unpleasant reunion, where she makes no effort to show she wants him. He thereby runs away and takes shelter in an abandoned river barge. The kid makes contact with the nine-year-old Kuleczka (Agnieszka Nagorzycka), who lives in a big house near the barge with her wealthy folks. They begin a curious relationship. Kundel roams the town collecting scrap iron that he sells to an old man (Lucjan Bi-enkowski), which gives him enough to buy a cup of soup every day. He gets enough food from foraging and stealing.

Danger lurks, as he must evade a pack of village delinquent youth who have it in for him and go after him whenever they spot him.

By having a lively performance from its child actor, a poignant sparse story,  with very little dialogue, and superb photography, the pic is enticing. It anticipates an impending tragedy despite its protagonist being so resourceful and self-reliant.

The modern-day Dickensian tale splendidly fits into today’s mostly apathetic society.