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Grazia is a mother of three who spends suffocating days packing fish while her husband Pietro is at sea. Her oft-erratic behavior leads Pietro into thinking she may need medical attention, and he prepares to send her off to a psychiatric institute in Milan. Their son Pasquale, the one person who understand his mother the most, vows to do whatever it takes to foil his father's plan. Written by
This is the first film by Emanuele Crialese that has played locally, I think, or if any other has come in, it hasn't played commercially.
The film is beautifully done with the fantastic backdrop of the Italian island of Lampedusa. This is a very arid place with almost no vegetation at all. The heat, obviously, must be oppressive, as the sun punishes this land and its people constantly to the point that children act as savages, as proven by the opening scenes.
Among these rascals are Pasquale and Filippo, the sons of Grazia, the housewife at the center of the story. She lives in her own world. She is a rebel and a free soul. Grazia's actions are seen as madness by her husband Pietro and his mother, who lives next door. It is the classic family from forgotten towns such as this, where everyone knows everyone's business. The only solution for Grazia's problems is to send her away to a Milan institution that perhaps will turn her into a vegetable. Her only sin is to be different, therefore, she is the town's eccentric. All her neighbors think she's a lunatic.
By Grazia withdrawing from the world, she appears to be a maladjusted person, which she isn't. She just loves to be free; swimming is her passion and her life, running around the island in her scooter is another form of freedom from the realities of home. In trying to escape her lot in life, Grazia discovers how much her son Pasquale loves her. The final scenes after the disappearance with the search party on the beach are typical of the same society that condemned Grazia but never took steps to show her any kindness. The miracle that occurs at the end is that perhaps Pietro realizes that in spite of his wife's apparent madness he has found how much he really needs her.
This is a simple story told with a sure hand by the director, who also wrote the screen play.
Valeria Golino, who has spent a few years in minor roles in Hollywood, is very effective as Grazia. She shows a great range of emotions under the sure direction of Crialese. It is amazing no one has made anything worth of Ms. Golino's talent, or that she has been forgotten by the Italian cinema; or that no one has come to her with projects such as this film.
As her husband, Vincenzo Amato is very effective. Also, Francesco Casisa as Pasquale makes a splendid appearance. This young man with the proper guidance has the potential of making a big splash in the Italian cinema.
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