Sam Thompson’s review published on Letterboxd:
War is not for children.
Ivan didn't have a childhood and his journey is something no child should have to go through.
That essentially sums up Tarkovksy's haunting look at a young orphaned boy amidst World War II. He wants to fight and help because he has nothing left. He is naive and yet has proven himself of great service. Soldiers around him want him away from the war because "the front line is no place for a child." However, through the course of the film we see that Ivan is beyond his years in many aspects. Through dreams and imagination we see his childlike desires and glee but this is contrasted by his harsh muddy reality that he trudges through.
Tarkovsky must have had the perfect eye straight out of the womb. He always knows the perfect shot composition to capture a character's mental state and mood. Just like everything else he has done, Ivan's Childhood is a gorgeous feast of photography. Especially towards the end, Tarkovsky brilliantly captures the tragedy of war through empty and decayed locations that have been the result of wartime destruction. This notion hits harder after having been on Ivan's journey as you realise he is only one of thousands that the war tragically affected.
The film can be slightly uneven at times with moments and scenes that feel out of place. These scenes might be beautiful in their own right but Ivan's Childhood doesn't flow as seamlessly as his other work. The score is exceptional and the performances are great, especially Nikolay Burlyaev (as Ivan) who we would later see in Andrei Rublev.
Ivan's Childhood is more than just a fantastic debut from one of cinema's best. It is a damn fine piece of art that'll stick with you.