White Crow tells the story of famous ballet dancer Rudolph Nureyev and the even more famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view). Told in the third person from the moment of his birth on a trans-siberian railway in the bitterly cold Russian winter. This one event, as with all of its kind shapes the rest of Nureyev as he becomes determined to escape poverty and the country that has done so much to nurture him for what he sees as his chance to escape to a better life.
It is strange to think of the world of the cold war, especially if you have been brought not knowing that it happened. You take for granted that the world is how it has always been until you realise that it was once oh so different.
The film is perfectly paced, going back and forth between Nureyev’s childhood which is mainly confined to illustrating the closeness of boy and mother. Ravshana Kurkova brings a commanding if understated role to the screen in the all too brief moments that she is called upon in her role as Nureyev’s mother Farida. While Oleg Ivenko is the personification of grace and strength needed to play the main role, finding himself in an increasingly perilous situation which ultimately changes his life.
Of the other supporting actors, French actress Adèle Exarchopoulos plays her role as Nureyev’s long time friend and confidant Clara Saint with assurance and depth that makes her role pivotal to the plot as Nureyev’s gateway between his old life and his new. While director Ralph Fiennes, in a rather understated role for him, ties the plot together. Black Crow may not be high up in nominations when it comes to awards season but it is perhaps all the better for that, sitting in the movie highlights of the year, like it’s director, as a quietly understated piece of cinema.