A brief history of studies exploring the absence of maternal love is interspersed throughout proceedings, and it’s remarkable to see their conclusions played out in such vivid emotional detail. Masha never cries. But she never really shows joy either. Marcel and Vadim are both slightly aggressive but desperately needy – presumably as a result of having to jostle for emotional and physical space in a Russian orphanage.
The family’s early struggles and mutual incomprehension are genuinely tough to watch. But mainly thanks to the endless good nature of dad Claudio – who shares both a look and an air of saintly propriety with Ned Flanders – the family begin to gel and it’s a lovely thing to behold.