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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 really and simply a wonderful film. I saw it by accident, so it took me by surprise. The film is like other (very good) Italian films in that it features a simple story, wonderful characters, lots of 'couleur locale', and very good actors. And then add some very nice shots and a superb location.
If I was reading this, I would start to fear for a film that gets lost in its niceness and remains too light. But not Respiro (or Lampedusa, after the island it was filmed at). Already in the opening scenes it is made clear that there is a lot of violence and suspense in the air. Not that there is any blood to be seen in this film. There is a lot of fighting between groups of young boys and the adults defend their honor with physical violence, but things never get really mean.
Between the beauty of the island and the harshness of existence on it walks, no, floats, one woman named Grazia. The camera loves her, her sons love her, and even the other islanders love her. But she too different, too non-conforming to be tolerated in the long run.
In an interesting twist, it is not Grazia but her son Pasquale who is the story teller in this film. We see things through his eyes and it is only through him that we get to know his wonderful but mysterious mother. Like the rest of the village, Pasquale is torn between convention and love for her. With him being a 13 (or so) year old in a very traditional family, it is totally believable that we see Pasquale commanding his mother to not swim in the sea in one scene, and adoringly follow her in the next.
And this sums up the film for me: A simple but beautiful story, with an undercurrent of critique or bewilderment at the traditional family style and its low tolerance for being different; a very positive outlook and a love for life, which is shared by all and reflected in the end of the movie; and beautiful and sometimes magical atmosphere which is the most difficult thing ever to create in a movie.
Go see this movie!
PS I you like this movie, consider seeing Blier's "Un, deux, trois, soleil" which is so obscure that I wanted to mention it here.
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