Paleo Retiree writes:
Three and a half stars. Set on the harshly beautiful Italian island of Lampedusa, this 2002 film is EZ neorealism — and I don’t mean that as a putdown. For much of its length, the film is an open and attentive portrait of a peasant fishing town, mainly via its rituals, its work, its meals and its children. Events unfold at an unhurried pace — the fascination is in taking in what these people are like and how their traditional, everyone-knows-everyone-else’s-business life works.
The story that slowly emerges is about a young, beautiful fisherman’s wife (Valeria Golino), the mother of three kids, with whom she has a very loving — and maybe too-sensual — relationship. She causes hard-to-understand scenes; she overreacts to everything; she can be disruptive as hell. Whassup with her? Is she mentally ill? Or is she a free spirit trapped in an oppressive small town?
Golino’s darned good, though the chic, waifish thing she physically is struck me as an odd choice for the kind of overwhelming-powerhouse-peasantwoman role that Anna Magnani used to play. The writer/director Emanuele Crialese gives the film a slightly magical, out-of-time aura and an open, unresolved finale. What will up-to-date American filmgoers — addicted as they are to wipe-you-out effects, and to being told exactly where to look and what to feel — make of a quiet, unforced experience like this one, where the whole point is to find your own way through it? That’s a luscious and magnificent (Rossellini, Renoir, Visconti — great names) tradition of filmmaking and film-experiencing that I’m sometimes afraid the world is losing track of.