Billy Elliot meets Good Bye Lenin! doesn't quite do justice to the subtler dimensions of this Russian period comedy, but it gets across the major flavors. The story of a ballet-obsessed Moscow adolescent boy growing up during the Perestroika era who pretends his father is really Mikhail Baryshnikov, writer-director Dmitry Povolotsky's semi-autobiographical film is an endearing crowd-pleaser.
Set in Moscow circa 1986, the plot pivots around Boris Fishkin, a scrawny, underdeveloped 14-year-old whose Jewish surname sets him slightly apart from his peers at his performing-arts academy. He lives with his mother, who tutors others in English and Russian and occasionally sleeps with some of her clients.
At school, Boris demonstrates lots of enthusiasm for dancing, but rather less natural skill and strength. When one of his mother's American students gives him a banned VHS copy of White Nights, Boris watches the ballet scenes repeatedly and tries to copy Baryshnikov's moves. Half out of childish fantasy, half out of a desire to impress, he tells his classmates he's really Baryshnikov's illegitimate son, and when his pirouettes begin to improve, everyone starts to believe him.