Emotionally complex and gloomy study of adolescence and Catholicism
Writer/director Alice Rohrwacher makes her feature debut with this diligent, emotionally complex study of an adolescent girl attempting to square physical dislocation with incipient sexual awakening and the concurrent rituals of her family’s Catholic faith. Yle Vianello – one of those solemn child actors who remind us that it’s a short memory indeed that regards childhood as a lost realm of carefree irresponsibility – plays Marta, who’s moved with her mother and sister from Switzerland to their native Calabria just in time for her confirmation.
The small local church is awaiting delivery of a fancy crucifix, in time for a visit from the Bishop; it also faces losing its ageing priest, and Marta finds herself pivotal to both eventualities. The film makes neat if familiar associations between Catholic ritual and sexual identity, and between religion and civic corruption. Hélène Louvart’s accomplished cinematography achieves a persuasive sense of place; and performances are also effective, with Pasqualina Scuncia especially striking as the idealistic matriarch of Marta’s Sunday school. However, the film as a whole is a rather gloomy watch, and its slight story arc leaves it feeling like a skilled but overextended short.
Selected release from Fri 30 Mar.