Apparently inspired by writer-director Barry Shurchin's own life, "Immigrant" centers on a Russian boy named Daanyik (Samuel J. Dixon) who immigrates to Brooklyn with his drunk father, Deemaa (Harry Hamlin), and nagging mother Meelaa (Angela Gots) in the late 1970s. Deemaa is against the move from the start, and when he has to give up engineering for a job moving boxes, he grows increasingly shiftless and eventually exits the family.
It's Meelaa who insists they leave a country that hates them — they're Jews — so their son can have a better life, but Daanyik's situation only worsens. He's encouraged to fight at school, bullied by older neighborhood kids, molested by a rabbi, witness to a near-rape and, when his mother shacks up with another Russian immigrant, abused by "Uncle" Toleek (Andrew Divoff).
These scenes can drag; they at times pay homage to the filmmaker's memories rather than drive the narrative forward. When there is action, it's awkwardly filmed. One pull of a gun in particular could have used another take or two.
Meanwhile, Shurchin makes some bizarre choices. His actors mostly speak English in cartoonish Russian accents. And each scene is bookended by an interlude of archival footage of first the Soviet Union, then the immigrant experience in New York — like scene changes in a play while the set is being switched.
For his part, Dixon does a fine job with otherwise limited, melodramatic material.
MPAA rating: None
Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Music Hall 3, Beverly HillsCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times