Patryk Vega (director)
17 September 2021 (released)
20 September 2021
Poland 2004, a mother is strolling along with her daughter Ola (Jessica Sara Witenko) whose asking questions with the natural curiosity of a young child as they pass those dressed in white ready for first communion.
Getting back home Uncle Roman is not interested in the girl or much else. Ola goes out to play and she disappears her mother immediately suspects that she is being taken towards the Russian border. Stopped on the way by a cop Rob (Piotr Adamczyk) they are too late for truck that had the child whose hair had been cut to make her look like a boy.
Moving forward three years to Russia a gas explosion reveals a paedophile’s stash of photos and films of children in Oleg’s (Andris Keiss) flat who is looking after five children. Oleg is arrested and beaten when Rob turns up at the police station looking for Ola, whom he’s been tracking for years.
The children have been passed onto Oleg’s brother who transports them to Ukraine to be sold on from there, passing through Moldova then to Rotherham. After 5 years Rob is still on the case but although closing in criminality, greed and high-level corruption thwart him.
At the same time he’s finding out more about himself and confronting some seriously dark issues. We leave Rotherham and the next stop is Bangkok with Ola combining a world of sleaze and exploitation with one of luxury and good living.
At times Small World is almost unwatchable with its scenes of depravity, violence and abuse – a party in Rotherham is particularly repulsive. It is debateable whether it needed to be that graphic to get its point over as the conversations between the people traders are enough to let the viewer know the state of these people. What becomes clear is the complexity of this trade, the money and the total absence of any sort of moral conscience about these people, as if we didn’t know that.
Also how the victims are programmed to what is required of them and passed about like pieces of meat. If one should die – there’s a horrible suicide – there’s others to come along.
However this is as much about Rob and how over twelve years he’s tracked Ola (now played by Julia Wieniawa-Narkiewicz) and what he starts to realise about himself and battle his subconscious.
The problem with a film like this is that there is at the core an interesting, possibly important story that is just totally submerged by the graphic sleaziness and violence. As such there’s revolt at the trade and the people involved and sympathy for the victims, but it is hard to have a lot of empathy with any of the main characters.
This is the case with Rob whom we are asked to think of as complex man and possibly glean some into his battle with his demons. That is something the viewer has to decide. The film resolves it for him in a blatant, brutal and simplistic manner.
A better performance is from Wieniawa-Narkiewicz who plays the teenage Ola in Bangkok as she juggles abuse and control – though the latter is debatable as she is paid by her clients to be in control. Her boyfriend an extremely sleazy (the appropriately named) John (Enrique Arce) is by turns considerate though controlling and violent. At times Ola you feel has the upper hand having had the experiences she’s had, others as vulnerable as any child.
At close to two hours this is a gruelling experience if a well-made one. Patryk Vega’s direction (co-written with Olaf Olszewski) is slick lobbing in firefights and car chases with the beatings and murders. In the end it’s debateable if this actually illuminates very much because it certainly doesn’t entertain.