• David Parkinson

Parky At the Pictures (17/6/2022)

(Reviews of films showing in The Wave season at Ciné Lumière)


What busy bees they are at Cinecittà, the Istituto Italiano di cultura and the Ciné Lumière in South Kensington. Just three months after the Cinema Made in Italy season, these august bodies join forces again for The Wave. Running between 15-19 June, this celebration of Italian women film-makers will include such classics as Elvira Notari's `A Santanotte (1922), Lina Wertmüller's I basilischi (1963) and Luciano Salce's Monica Vitti comedy, Duck in Orange Sauce (1975).


Also showing is Laura Bispuri's feature debut, Sworn Virgin (2015), an adaptation of an Elvira Dones novel that turns on the Albanian custom of `burrnesha' that exists under the social code of Kanun and allows women to live as men providing they take a lifelong vow of chastity. However, having lived as a male named Mark for 13 years, Hana (Alba Rohrwacher) tires of life in the Mountains of the Damned and slips into Italy to pay an unexpected visit to her sister, Lila (Flonja Kodheli), whose teenage daughter, Jonida (Emily Ferratello), takes a while to get used to the aunt she never knew she had. The action is flecked with flashbacks showing how the siblings (played by Drenica and Dajana Selimaj) got on when Rohrwacher was first adopted.


COSMONAUT.


Given that her most recent feature, Miss Marx (2020), is a biopic of Karl Marx's daughter, Eleanor, it seems fitting that Susanna Nicchiarelli should have made her directorial debut with a study of Italian Communism in the 1960s. Making adroit use of archive footage of the Soviet space programme, Cosmonaut, seemed a natural follow-on from Nicchiarelli's animated short, Sputnik 5 (both 2009). Frustratingly, for all the intrigue generated by its setting, this inexorably turns into just another growing pains saga.


Still mourning the loss of her card-carrying father, nine year-old Luciana Proietti (Giorgia De Andreis) storms out of church on the morning of her First Communion. When her dismayed mother, Rosabla (Claudia Pandolfi), demands to know what on earth has come over her, Luciana proudly declares that she is a Communist, like her older brother, Arturo (Giacomo Passarelli).


In truth, Arturo is more interested in the USSR's bid to conquer the stars than the Kremlin's 1957 efforts to spread the creed. However, as he devours information about Laika the space dog and female cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, the now 15 year-old Luciana (Miriana Raschilla) has joined the Federation of Young Communists. She insists that she is committed to revolution, but her hormones keep reminding her of the good looks of leader Vittorio (Michelangelo Ciminale).


The trouble is, he is dating Fiorella (Chiara Arrighi), So, Luciano has to tag along with the podgy Angelo (Valentino Campitelli), as she takes up smoking in an effort to impress the adults milling around the group, including the sophisticated Marisa (Susanna Nicchiarelli). This isn't Luciana's only problem, however, as Arturo (Pietro del Giudice) has been diagnosed with epilepsy, while her mother has married Armando (Sergio Rubini), an unreconstructed Fascist, who occasionally talks sense when Luciana most needs to hear it. There's also the small matter of a rocket...


Having set up the situation so neatly, Nicchiarelli and co-scenarist Teresa Cabatti seem to lose interest in the socio-political dilemma facing many Italians torn between the Communists and the Christian Democrats on the eve of the Economic Miracle. Consequently, as the narrative edges towards the Moon landing, the pair push the historical context into the background to focus on the kind of adolescent anxieties that are ten a penny in the millennial teenpic. This is a shame, as the clashing ideologies are much more interesting than the melodramatics that evolve around Luciana's love life and Arturo's growing sense of despondency and his fixation with a collection of matchsticks. Such is the insistence on connecting with a contemporary audience that the soundtrack contains modern reworkings of the period's iconic pop songs instead of the real things.


Alessandro Vannucci's production design and Francesca Casciello's costumes are wittily precise without resorting to pastiche. The colours are vividly captured by cinematographer Gherado Gossi, as are the local landmarks that imply that Italy's past is forever impinging upon its present. Miriana Raschilla works hard as the sometimes unsympathetic Luciana, but Nicchiarelli's direction doesn't always exhibit the assurance evident in Discovery At Dawn (2012), Nico, 1988 (2017) and Miss Marx, which deserved to reach a wider audience, thanks to a superb performance from Romola Garai.


HEAVENLY BODY.


Despite its adherence to the Dardenne brand of pared-down realism, Alice Rohrwacher's feature debut, Corpo Celeste, has most in common with Katell Quillévéré's Love Like Poison (2010), with its focus on a watchful adolescent girl's growing appreciation of adult foible, religious duplicity and her own physical and emotional maturation. However, in charting Yile Vianello's struggle to settle in her native Reggio di Calabria after several years in Switzerland, Rohrwacher also considers the social, economic and cultural insularity of southern Italy and the extent to which Catholicism has contributed to its retardation.


She also uses Hélène Louvart's mobile camera to capture the dispiriting landscape and Vianello's quizzical perspective, as she seeks to find contemporary relevance in priest Salvatore Cantalupo's teachings and tries to make sense of her relationship with that unknowable man hanging on a cross.


Just turned 13 and virtually a stranger to her sisters, Marta (Vianello) is struggling to adapt to life in the boot of Italy after relocating with her ailing mother Rita (Anita Caprioli), who is usually so exhausted by her exertions at a giant bakery that she has little time for her introverted daughter or her insecurities. Accustomed to chic Swiss city comforts, Marta finds the scrubby landscape as alien as the religious ceremonies she is compelled to attend while preparing for her forthcoming confirmation. Moreover, her feelings of outsiderness are exacerbated when she is humiliated in a catechism class run by the earnest (and desperately unfulfilled) Santa (Pasqualina Scuncia), who changes the lyrics to pop songs in a cringeworthy effort to dupe the kids into thinking God is trendy.


Marta also finds herself bemused by the way that Don Mario (Cantalupo) says mass and her fascination with him alternately amuses and appals the rest of the congregation. However, the tetchy prelate is too preoccupied with backing the right-wing candidate in the upcoming mayoral election and his own promotion prospects (with their attendant hope that he might be transferred somewhere far away from this backward backwater) to minister to his flock. Yet, when he passes Marta while en route to the ghost village of Roghudi to fetch the crucifix from the abandoned church to replace the neon effort in his own rather soulless modern edifice, he offers her a lift and they chat awkwardly as they travel along the Ionian coast.


Perplexed by getting her first period in transit, Marta is glad to slip away by herself and meets ageing priest, Don Lorenzo (Renato Carpentieri), who translates passages from the gospels that Santa had suggested she took on trust and paints a picture of Christ as an angry man at odds with the shortcomings of his followers and the iniquities of his time. Thus, she has plenty to think about as she heads home with Don Mario. But a bizarre traffic accident causes the crucifix to fly into the sea and makes up Marta's mind what she must do when the confirmation service starts.


It's clear from the opening shot of the Marian procession over parched terrain and under a road bridge and from the images of despised immigrants scrabbling in rubbish tips for salvageable items that this is a dirt poor community. But, while one might expect faith to not just be a consolation, but also a necessity, the locals are too busy getting by to adhere to rigid Catholicism. Thus, Santa slaps Marta in class and later orders some boys to dispose of some kittens in the cruellest manner possible. Even Don Mario is not above pausing a ritual to answer his mobile phone or plead with the bishop to end his penance and deliver him from this unholy place.


But, while Rohrwacher draws on her documentary background to capture the look and feel of the locale and makes intuitive use of Louvart's handheld camera to convey Vianello's watchful perspective, she never quite manages to make the townsfolk (with the notable exception of Cantalupo) feel more than ciphers. Consequently, the scenes of quotidian life feel forced, even though they are supposed to be viewed through the eyes of a stranger (who is interestingly played by a girl who had never previously left the mountain village where she was raised in a home without electricity). Thus, while this is often socially and satirically shrewd, it occasionally comes close to being patronising and as parochial as the region it is scrutinising.


MATERNAL.


Having won awards for her documentary, Nadea and Sveta (2012), Maura Delpero spent four years in a holgar in Buenos Aires studying the relationship between the unmarried mothers who lived there and the nuns who cared for them. The result of this prolonged research period is Maternal, a meticulously composed feature that deftly combines contextualising actuality and restrained melodrama.


Luciana (Agustina Malale) and Fatima (Denise Carrizo) have been friends since they were kids. They share a room at a holgar in Buenos Aires, where Fatima is expecting a second child and is starting to lose patience with Luciana for always leaving her to look after her toddler daughter, Nina (Isabella Cilia), while she goes partying with unsuitable men.


Newly arrived from Italy, Sister Paola (Lidiya Liberman) notices that the brash Luciana takes advantage of the placid Fatima, as she watches them interacting with some of the other residents in the sewing room. She also realises that Luciana neglects Nina (who keeps trying on her make-up), while Fatima tries to take care of Michael (Alan Rivas) and take an interest in him. Both children wave at Paola when she comes into the bible class being run by Sister Pia (Livia Fernán) and she strokes Nina's hair when she babysits the children while their mothers are having a disco. However, the evening ends badly, when Luciana takes exception to Fatima's uncomplimentary comment about her dancing style.


They are still grumpy with each other the next day, as Luciana covers Fatima with dust while she is sweeping the stairs. She also gets cross when she returns to the room and finds Paola chatting with Fatima and the novice chides Luciana for asking her friend to steal selotape from the stores so that she could wax her legs. When Luciana tries to make up, she winds up criticising Fatima for keeping a photo of the mother who has twice allowed her boyfriend to molest her.


After being confined to her room for sneaking out at night, Luciana takes out her frustration on Nina by popping her new balloon with a cigarette. That night, she runs away and the Mother Superior (Marta Lubos) tells Nina that her mother has found a job. As Michael is acting up (he breaks another boy's tooth in an argument), Fatima begins to feel the strain of having to look after Nina and faints in the bathroom. Paola ministers to her and offers to let Nina sleep in her room for a while to ease the burden.


Often in the nursery to cradle the sleeping infants, Paola enjoys mothering Nina and she reads her the story of `The Ugly Duckling' to reassure her that she is special. However. shortly after Fatima gives birth to a daughter, the Mother Superior and her silent sidekick Sister Bruna (Renata Palminiello) spot Paola giving Nina a hug at the door to the kindergarten and she has her cot removed from Paola's room. Michael is pleased to have his playmate back, but he rather likes the idea that he is now part of the model unit (ie the Holy Family) that he had learned about from Sister Pia.


Vaguely understanding a sermon in church about the Prodigal Son, Nina realises that Luciana has abandoned her. Thus, when she is made to write `I Love You Mummy' in class, she makes a show of tearing up the paper in front of Fatima and Paola. They use selotape to stick it together again, but Nina insists on giving all her schoolwork about mothers to Paola. She rewards her by letting her spend another night in her room. But, when Mother Superior announces that Paola is ready to take her final vows, she feels she needs to conform to the rules of the holgar and sneaks Nina back into Fatima's room after she had clambered into her bed in the middle of the night.


When Luciana returns unexpectedly, however, with cuts and bruises to her face, Paola is placed in a difficult position. Fatima refuses to plead Luciana's case with the nuns, who inform her that abandoning her child is a case for the courts. Cursing the Mother Superior for having no right to take her child away. Luciana goes to pack. She sees Paola on the stairs and slaps her so hard her cornette flies off.


Fearing that Nina will suffer, Paola cradles the girl when she finds her praying in the chapel. When she falls asleep, Paola carries her through the gate and into the city. She waits at a bus stop and considers climbing aboard. But common sense prevails and she returns to the holgar in time to defy the Mother Superior and hand Nina to Luciana, as she awaits a taxi. As Fatima and the nuns stand on the path, Luciana looks up and isn't sure whether to be grateful, resentful or full of remorse.


Immaculately performed by Lidiya Liberman, this is one of the most thoughtful films about nuns for some time. We may learn little about Paola's background and her reasons for travelling from Italy to Argentina, while the

odd nunsploitation cliché rears its head. But Delpero poignantly reminds us that the sisters may have devoted themselves to God and the rules of their order, but they are also women. Natural instincts are almost bound to arise in places like holgars, where the nuns have to deal with emotionally fragile young mothers and the children whom many of them view as a punishment for what was supposed to have been a bit of harmless fun.


That may have been the case for Luciana, but Fatima is clearly the victim of domestic abuse and her refusal to press charges against her mother's rapacious boyfriend exposes the extent to which women are reduced to second-class status in such an unregeneratively patriarchal society. They are also capably played by Agustina Malale (herself a hogar alumna) and Denise Carrizo, as the best friends with little in common beside their plight and a love of the view from the holgar roof.


But the differences between the bookish Fatima and the rebellious Luciana are rather contrived, even though Delpero inventively contrasts them with Paola's serenity by keeping Soledad Rodriguez's camera moving in the women's quarters and often keeping it still in the convent and chapel. She rushes the denouement. But this is a composed and compassionate debut.


NORMAL.


Adopting an entirely observational stance that recalls the work of Nikolaus Geyrhalter and Godfrey Reggio, Adele Tulli's highly distinctive documentary, Normal, marks something of a departure from the methods employed in 365 Without 377 (2011), which examined changing Indian attitudes to same-sex relationships, and Rebel Menopause (2014), a short profile of eightysomething feminist Thérèse Clerc. A graduate of the Screen Documentary course at Goldsmiths in the University of London, Tulli went on to do post-doctoral research at the University of Sussex. But, while this intelligent exploration of perceptions of gender normativeness in millennial Italy makes demands on the audience, it's anything but inaccessibly academic.


Following underwater shots of a pregnancy exercise class, we see a close-up of a small girl named Alma waiting to have her ears pierced. The besuited man performing the operation tells her how cute she looks, while her mother coos about how she will soon look like her. She is clearly apprehensive, but lets little emotion slip as the studs are clipped into her lobes and she smiles shyly on seeing herself in a mirror. Her rite of passage is contrasted with that of a nameless boy being prepared by his father for a minibikes race. They discuss how brave he was for not being afraid of the wind while camping out in a tent before dad imparts some procedural information that his son doesn't appear to be taking in. We see the competitors on the grid and a get a brief glimpse of the action on the serpentine track before the segment ends on a shot of the young lad reflecting with quiet satisfaction on his achievement, while still wearing his helmet and protective clothing.


New mums use their strollers during a keep fit class in a park, while divers hands manufacture plastic toys in a noisy factory. We see pieces being fitted together for an ironing board set, as well as the gender-designated packaging for toolbox and kitchen sets. The picture on the label for a dressing-table set shows a young girl wearing lipstick gazing dreamily into the middle distance and this sense that `one day my prince will come' is thrown into relief by footage of adolescent girls screaming at a meet-and-greet with YouTube star Antony di Francesco. There's something Duce-esque about the way he waves to them from an upper window before giving them a quick hug and careless kiss when they are allowed inside to pose for commemorative snaps with their idol, who barely looks up from squiggling his autograph on copies of the book that each girl has bought before being abruptly moved on by his minders.


Tulli cuts to close-ups of the screen-lit faces of boys of various ages playing a video game. They are wearing headphones and we are aware of the sound effects for a military scenario that is shown before a cross-cut takes us to a war games exercise, in which young males in macho protective masks shoot at each other with pellet guns. Images of lads trying to keep their balance in a gyrating fairground ride give way to a top shot down on to a kayak being paddled on tranquil water. On the soundtrack, however, we hear a teenager and his PUA Training counsellor discussing ways of talking to the opposite sex. As the kid comes up with opening gambits (some of which are wince-inducingly chauvinist), his mentor evaluates their alpha male effectiveness and asks how he would tailor his chat-up lines to impress a `bitter woman'.


Clips of women subjecting themselves to facial electrolysis, vibratory muscle stimulation and a sunbed session are followed by footage of bright young things attending a beach party. Boys and girls alike have dressed to impress according to trendy fashion expectations, but the outfits worn by the latter are markedly more revealing. A photographer poses Diana and Diego for some wedding pictures near a marina and blithely remarks that `the man always has to take the initiative'. As the shoot moves on to the beach, Diego is asked to adopt a series of manly poses, as he sweeps his bride into his arms, while she is asked to raise her foot off the ground during a passionate embrace.


Shifting from wedded bliss to the realities of married life, we see a Catholic priest conducting a group guidance session, in which he considers how couples drift apart through a lack of communication and a dimming of sexual desire. He scotches myths about innocence and says that both parties are inevitably to blame if one partner cheats on the other. His words are received with respectful silence and the odd dutiful smile (as well as one female yawn). But they belong to a different age, as do the scantily clad girls dancing with a hose pipe at a moto convention. The shot of the row of motorbikes that opens the segment is designed to remind us of the little lads footling around on their minibikes. But, while there wasn't a female in sight in that sequence, there are several women and girls watching both this unedifying spectacle and the slow-motion destruction of a car by a string of sledgehammer-wielding petrolheads.


Any hopes that the pungent whiff of fumes can be borne away by a bracing sea breeze are quickly dashed by a diversion to the beach games taking place away from the tideline where people of all ages, shapes and sizes are happily paddling. Shots of kids on a well-slicked water slide are followed by the sight of three boys ogling a pole-dancing exhibition. Further along the shore, there's a Muay Thai display and another open-air exercise session, which this time involved women bouncing on small trampolines. But nothing quite prepares the audience for the Miss Mondo section, which sees a panel of mostly white middle-aged males listening gawpingly as a woman quizzes the contestants about their career plans. A couple are interested in the law, another wants to become a military engineer, while a third is keen to work in criminology. At the end of her presentation, however, she is asked if she has a boyfriend before being told to lift up her hair and her chin for some photographs. She is then required to walk away from the judges in her high heels and we cut away to a full-length body shot from the low angle close-ups of bikini-clad buttocks that have been used throughout the segment.


From one stereotype to another, as a middle-class wedding planner in Lecce lectures a group of brides to be about the changes they can expect when they return from their honeymoons and have to start cooking and cleaning for their new husbands. She reminds them not to let themselves go and urges them to be attentive to their menfolk, especially during and after pregnancy, as they will often find themselves with two babies to care for. No wonder Ilaria's hen night friends tunefully plead with her not to get married after they bundle into the back of a stretch limo for a raucous party, complete with phallic cakes and deely boppers.


Backstage at a magic show, we see a conjuror being made up to cut his glamorous assistant in half. He also makes her disappear and replaces her head with a ball of fire. No wonder he needs to relax afterwards with a well-earned cigarette. The film ends on a classier note, however, as Marco and Pasquale conclude their civil partnership in the spectacular setting of the Teatro Communale in Ferrara. They pose on the stage for photographs with family and friends before toasting each other in champagne and serving a colourfully chic variation on the traditional wedding cake. As they closing credits roll, we rejoin the stroller exercise club, as they pass through the frame, squatting to the chirpy encouragement of their MammaFit instructor.


There's nothing accidental about a cine-essay as meticulously made as this one and a good deal of Flahertyesque selectivity has gone into the content, staging and juxtaposition of its vignettes But the effect is both potent and provocative, as Tulli's `unexpected atlas' forces the audience to reassess where normality lies in the passing parade of situations and the social constructs that ensure that even the most seemingly outdated continue to be regarded as the norm at the tail end of second decade of the 21st century. It would be fascinating to eavesdrop on the conversations of those leaving the cinema after the screening, as this is very much a film whose meaning will vary according to the beholder - even though it shouldn't.


In creating this `mosaic of associations' to convey the `spectacle of the super-normal reality of everyday life', Tulli is much indebted to Clarissa Cappellani and Francesca Zonars, as well as fellow editors Ilaria Fraioli and Elisa Cantelli. Andrea Koch's splendidly eclectic score also does much to reinforce the rhythm of the piece, while also keeping minds focused with its playful shifts of tone. In eschewing caption and voiceovers, Tulli set out to avoid putting a pedagogical or ideological imprint on the images. But the authorial voice is consistently discernible, as, indeed, it should be when it talks such eminently good sense in addressing the conventions and contradictions on which a supposedly civilised society is balanced.


A STREET IN PALERMO.


A lesbian couple encounters an immovable objects in Emma Dante's A Street in Palermo.

Seething with resentment at being back in the Sicilian capital to attend a wedding reception she would rather miss, Rosa (Emma Dante) remembers exactly why she was so desperate to leave the island. She is also unprepared to tolerate the latest mood swing from girlfriend Clara (Alba Rohrwacher). As Rosa drives through the narrow streets of a city that feels as though it is clinging on to the edge of Europe by its fingernails, Clara sketches in her notepad and tries to summon the words she needs to end the relationship that has long lost its spark and now generates only tension and recrimination. While still emphasising the proximity of the pair in their awkward silence, Gherardo Gossi's handheld camera restlessly flits over her shoulder to catch both the punky tattoo on her arm to the drawing taking shape on the paper, as Rosa turns the car into Via Castellana Bandiera.


Meanwhile, matriarch Samira (Elena Cotta) approaches the same one-way thoroughfare from the opposite direction. Earlier in the day, she had tended the grave of the beloved daughter who had died of cancer at the age of 36. She dresses as though she is still in mourning and ferries her family back from the beach with a wearying sense of duty. She particularly resents driving her boorish son-in-law, Saro (Renato Mafatti), who is forever complaining about her, his kids and his misfortunes. But, when she finds her Piat Punto bumper to bumper with Rosa's Multipla, Samira becomes a model of passive resistance, as she sits behind the wheel without saying a word, but speaking volumes with her expressions and posture.


Horns are beeped, but neither woman gives way. It would be easy for one to reverse to allow the other to pass. But, as an ethnic Albanian, Samira has learned to stand her ground since coming to the city from the small community of Piana degli Albanesi and she simply switches off her engine and prepares to sit it out in the heat of the afternoon, even though she is only yards from home. The residents know all about Samira and, so, when Filippo Mangiapane (Carmine Maringola) starts taking bets on who will back down, the smart money is on their neighbour. But they underestimate the city slicker, who is just as prepared as Samira to leave her vehicle and squat for pee at the side of the road.


Saro loses his patience, while his 16 year-old son, Nicolo (Dario Casarolo) - o is the apple of his grandmother's eye - offers to escort Clara for a bite to eat. Something has to give. But, when it does, it feels a little anti-climactic. Indeed, once the suspense is lifted, the broadness of the characterisation of the onlookers and the visual symbolism suddenly feel a bit heavy-handed, with Dante and Cotta rather obviously personifying the various social, political, religious and generational schism that reinforce the notion of Italy as a country divided along North/South lines.


This takes nothing away from the wonderful performances, however, with the taciturn Cotta (who won the Volpi Cup for Best Actress at Venice) being matched by the more voluble and vulnerable Dante and the quirkily offbeat Rohrwacher. Having adapted the screenplay from her own novel, with the help of Giorgio Vasta and Licia Eminenti, Dante directs steadily and is aided in making evocative use of the cramped, rubbish-strewn locale by production designer Emita Frigato, whose appreciation of space and perspective is crucial to the intensity of the conceit. One could easily imagine this being staged in a theatre. But, even though Dante opens out the action more than either Abbas Kiarostami's Ten (2002) or Jafar Panahi's Taxi Tehran (2015), this is somehow never quite as cinematic. Nevertheless, without ever being particularly amusing, it is darkly satirical, quietly compelling and more than a touch disconcerting.


SWING RIDE.


Having made a solid debut impression with Ordinary Justice (2020), Chiara Bellosi takes another look at the lives of marginalised teenagers in Swing Ride, which was scripted by Maria Teresa Venditti and Luca Bellosi and bears a passing resemblance in theme and mood to Giuseppe Bonito's A Girl Returned, which was adapted from Donatella Di Pietrantonio's bestselling Campiello Prize winner, L'Arminuta.


Fifteen year-old Benedetta (Gaia Di Pietro) wishes her mother, Anna (Barbara Chichiarelli), would stop fretting about her weight and let her get on with her life. Father Marco (Giandomenico Cupaiuolo) is too busy renovating cars when not working at the glass factory, while accepting best friend Claudia (Claudia Salerno) is preoccupied by the fact that her mother has just allowed her cheating father to come home.


Thus, when a fairground sets up on the wasteland beside her home, Benedetta is intrigued, particularly by Amanda (Andrea Carpenzano), a confident non-binary person who recognises the placid teenager as a kindred spirit and gives her a plastic butterfly from the collection in his caravan. She returns home to find her parents and two younger sisters (Germana and Rachele Petavrachi) huddled in the hall because they have spotted a mouse.


When Anna chides Benedetta for eating raw chicken from the fridge during a midnight feast, she bunks off school to accompany Amanda to a TV talent show audition. She is much more taken with their moves than the dancercise routines Anna does in a bid to hang on to the ambitions of her youth, When Amanda leads Benedetta into a disco attached to the studio, she feels out of place. But he kisses her and she is soon strutting her stuff on the dance floor.


Anna is furious when Benedetta gets home late and high and Claudia is jealous that she had an adventure without her. Bored with listening to her parents bickering and dismayed by the sound of Marco canoodling with their neighbour, Silvana (Francesca Antonelli), Benedetta strops off to see Amanda.


They take her for a spin on the swing ride and Benedetta soon overcomes her nerves, as Amanda pulls her chair and kicks her out into the air. She's frustrated, however, when they ask Alma (Paola Tintinelli) to slow the ride, so they can jump off and disappear with another casual pick-up in a waiting car.


Having refused her father's invitation to the fair, Benedetta sees a man leaving Amanda's caravan the next morning. They are churlish and Benedetta is upset that she can't help her friend feel better. She puts her long hair back in a ponytail and arrives home to find Anna lamenting the fact that her old dance class pal has landed a role in West Side Story. Benedetta hugs her and asks her mother if she likes her. However, she is hurt when Anna says she would be better if she was a bit thinner.


On learning that the fair is moving on, Benedetta asks Amanda to take her with them. She returns home and impresses Anna when she dances to a rap tune with her sisters, who try to copy her moves. However, she joins Amanda they next day and they snuggle together on the bed, with Amanda resting their head on Benedetta's tummy. Taking a detour the following day, the pair float in a waterfall pool and enjoy being together and away from the people and things that make life so complicated.


Camping by the river that night, they make a bonfire of Amanda's butterflies and Benedetta feels she is moving on. When Amanda has company in the caravan, she sleeps in the car and tries to ignore the calls from Claudia, who informs her that the police are looking for her. She is having too much fun to call home. But, when Amanda takes money from Mario (Alessio Praticò) for some time alone with her, she realises that they don't have genuine feelings for her. Leaving behind the butterfly Amanda had given her, Benedetta sets the swing ride in motion and heads into the darkness with a quiet smile.


Delicately directed and written with an acutely touching insight into the psyche of an adolescent girl, this measured rite of passage explores how unthinkingly people impose stereotypes and prejudice upon those who simply wish to be themselves. Trudging to school along the same route each day, Benedetta doesn't seem particularly unhappy. But she doesn't see the wild flowers around her until Amanda teaches her to defy the expectations of parents and friends who have never really bothered to discover what makes her tick.


Played with taciturn solemnity by Gaia Di Pietro (who bears a passing resemblance to Sharon Rooney), Benedetta has a capacity for creativity, caring and contentment that Amanda unlocks almost accidentally after their chance meeting at the side of the dusty road where Amanda has been turfed out of a car by a hook-up. In truth, they are too wrapped up in their own problems to know what to do with Benedetta's affection. But Andrea Carpenzano deftly avoids making Amanda too self-centred right up until the moment they betray her.


As the housewife who keeps watching videos of her distant television appearances, Barbara Chichiarelli is pitiably bound-up in the resentments and frustrations that prevent her from realising that she has three wonderful children and a louse of a husband. The scene in which she struggles to understand why her daughter is hugging her contrasts with Amanda's reluctance to accept Benedetta's tenderness in the caravan. Yet all three find release in dance and Bellosi handles these moments of emotional release and mother-daughter connection superbly, with assistance from cinematographer Claudio Cofrancesco and editor Carlotta Cristiani.



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