"Maicol" is a small but haunting film about the relationship between an unwed mother, Anita, her 5-year-old son Maicol (pronounced like Michael) and her not-much-seen boyfriend. It is a sad slice of life, almost in the tradition of cinema-verité, though it is a fictional piece.
The mother is a hosiery factory worker in Milan in one of those mind-numbing places we saw in De Sica's "A Brief Vacation." She has to juggle her responsibilities, which she doesn't always take too seriously, to pursue her boyfriend Giulio who is all too ready to ditch her with little notice. At best she treats her son with an affectionate indifference. "Eat your meat...undress for bed" are about the extent of her words to the boy. As a cook she is a failure too. Her refrigerator is empty and last minute impromptu visits to the supermarket, with Maicol literally yanked along, are the rule.
Most of the time the seemingly friendless "Maicol" plays by himself in a private world bordering on the autistic and has a particular fascination for the movie "Dune" and its memorabilia. Sometimes he stays in the closet or beneath the bed. He doesn't say more than thirty words in the whole movie.
Anita decides to somehow get Giulio for the evening and go out to a movie. Unable to get a sitter for "Maicol", she brings him along. They take the subway. Seeing Giulio on the subway platform with another girl, she leaves the subway car to try to approach him. The subway door closes and the train moves off with Maicol still inside and Anita unable to retrieve him. Yet she seems indifferent to the boy and even after the separation, Anita is more concerned with finding Giulio.
The rest of the long evening is an odyssey for the confused and inarticulate boy. Strangers try to help him but he will not tell them his name or where he lives. In one scene, jovial members in uniform from a cavalry and artillery regiment notice the kid sitting alone. One soldier puts his cap on the child. Maicol smiles...his only smile in the movie. One surmises it to be the only smile in his life.
The train reaches the end of the line. The transit personnel call the police. Maicol is eventually returned to mom, who had not expended any effort at all the whole night to find her son...only to look for Giulio. She finds her son and Giulio when she makes it back home after a night with a woman friend. Maicol falls asleep in his own bed by morning, as the rain falls outside his window. The expression on his face is vacant.
This is a minimalist work from start to finish. We could probably wish for more elaboration, more structure, more life. But for me the film ultimately works precisely because of its understated style that makes us look closer and ask ourselves questions. What is Anita's background? How did she get into all this? Why does she never kiss her son? Treasure him? Why does she not search for him like a distraught mother when her child is missing? What's the attraction to Giulio? Where will this mother and son be in five or ten years? Actress Sabina Regazzi does a convincing job with this dysfunctional mom and human being. Simone Tessarolo is likable as the near-mute moppet who needs a good day at an amusement park with a dad or dad- figure. Sadly, that is something he is not likely ever to get.
The movie was directed by Mario Brenta, who had had a good deal of experience making documentaries, hence the documentary feel of this film. It was never released in the United States but was shown at New York's Museum of Modern Art in 1990 as part of the New Directors/New Films series. It was also shown on RAI-USA.
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