Little Vera (Russian: Ма́ленькая Ве́ра, Malenkaya Vera), produced at the Gorky Film Studio and released in 1988, is a film by Russian film director Vasili Pichul. The title in Russian is ambiguous and can also mean "Little Faith," symbolizing the characters' lack of hope (or a glimmer thereof).
The film was the leader in ticket sales in the Soviet Union in 1988 with 54.9 million viewers, and was the most successful Soviet film in the US since Moscow Does not Believe in Tears. Part of its popularity was due to being one of the first Soviet movies with explicit sexual scenes.
The film's main character and namesake is a teenage girl, who just having finished school feels trapped in her provincial town. With its pessimistic and cynical view of Soviet society, the film was typical of its time (perestroika), during which many such films, collectively known as the chernukha (Russian: чернуха, roughly "black stuff"), were released. However, the film's popularity did not prove long lived.
The film received 6 awards and was nominated for 8 more. Among its wins, it received "Best Actress" for Natalya Negoda at the Nika Awards in 1989. The film's director, Vasili Pichul, received the Special Jury Prize at the 1988 Montreal World Film Festival and FIPRESCI Prize at the 1988 Venice Film Festival.
The soundtrack's main theme consists of two songs performed by Sofia Rotaru "Bylo no proshlo" (It Was, But It Has Gone) and "Tol'ko etogo malo" (Only This Is Not Enough), "the leitmotif of the perestroika classic Little Vera".
Young Vera is a girl around twenty who just finished school. Her parents want her to apply for university, but at the moment she prefers going out with her best friend, Lena, dancing, party and nightlife. Vera loves listening to American and Western European rock and pop music and wears clothes and make up inspired by some of her idols such as Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, and Debbie Harry. She lives with her mother and her alcoholic father, Kolya, who are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with her choice of friends and what they consider her decadent lifestyle. They wonder why she can’t be more like her brother Victor, a doctor living in Moscow. At an underground dance party that is broken up by police, she meets Sergei, and they immediately fall in love. It turns out Sergei is an old friend of Victor, who, in town for a visit, calls on his friend only to find him alone with his sister.
Vera and Sergei decide to marry, but her parents object. Vera convinces them to accept the planned marriage by falsely telling her mother she is pregnant. Sergei’s first meeting with her parents is disastrous, and he leaves with Vera without finishing dinner, but he soon comes to live with them.
The tension between Sergei and Kolya increases and comes to a climax on Kolya’s birthday. Fed up with the drunken Kolya, Sergei locks him in the bathroom, where Kolya breaks the basin. When he is let out of the bathroom, he stabs Sergei in the side with a knife, the wound requiring a long convalescence in the hospital.
Vera’s mother tries to convince her to tell the authorities that Sergei accidentally caused the wound to himself, to avoid Kolya being sent to prison. Victor, visiting from Moscow, prescribes tranquilizers to calm the despondent Vera. The family goes to the beach for a picnic, ostensibly to help take Vera’s mind off the situation. Vera believes, however, that it is a ruse to persuade her to lie about the stabbing. A storm suddenly comes up, and as the family prepares to leave, Vera is nowhere to be found. Kolya searches for her and the two are seen embracing on the beach.
Vera testifies that her father was not to blame for what happened to Sergei. She visits him in the hospital and explains that the family needed Kolya to survive. Sergei now seems uninterested in her, and tells her to go away.
Back home at her parents, she finds herself alone and starts drinking and taking the pills. Victor arrives and rescues her. Sergei escapes from the hospital and soon arrives on the scene.
When Vera asked Sergei why he came back, he replies, "Because I was scared". As the film ends, Vera asks Sergei if he loves her.
Kolya sits alone in the kitchen once Vera has been put to bed. He slowly collapses and calls out to Victor and then Vera. It is assumed that he dies.
A subplot involves Andrey, a former classmate of Vera, who is infatuated with her and wants her to marry him. At the beginning of the film, Andrey is about to leave for naval training and attempts to persuade Vera to come home with him, but she spurns his advances. Later, she meets him on her way home from the hospital after visiting Sergei. He explains that he is on leave for only one day and again tries to arrange a tryst, only to have Vera resort to physical violence to fend him off when he attempts to force himself on her.Natalya Negoda – Vera
Andrei Sokolov – Sergei
Yuri Nazarov – Kolya (Vera's father)
Lyudmila Zajtseva – Rita (Vera's mother)
Alexandra Tabakova – Lenka Chistyakova (Vera's best friend)
Alexander Lenkov – Mikhail Petrovich
Aleksandr Negreba (billed as Aleksandr Alekseyev-Nyegreba) – Victor (Vera's brother)
Andrei Fomin – Andrey