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:: Respiro

This is a very beautiful film set in Lampedusa, an island near Sicily. The island is small enough to be cut off from television and the rest of the modern world. The focus is on a fisherman’s family in a place where fishing is the major source of income. Director Emanuele Crialese also wrote the screenplay and he establishes a realistic tone in demonstrating the village routines.

A lovely, free-spirited young mother-of-three named Grazia (Valeria Golino) is the wife of one of the fishermen, yet she seems to live by her own rules. She is brash and unpredictable, an enigma to those around her on the island village. Her behaviour becomes disturbing. She is restricted by this life and tries to break out of the daily routines. She even brings food to the stray dogs that are confined away from the townspeople. Grazia sees nothing wrong with swimming topless on secluded beaches and asking strangers to take her sailing. This all causes consternation to her children Pasquale (Francesco Casisa), Mariella (Veronica D’Agostino), and Filippo (Filippo Pucillo). Grazia’s husband, Pietro (Vincenzo Amato), is frustrated by the events and looks for greater respect to his position. Despite his devotion to Grazia, her erratic behaviour makes him think about seeking treatment for her on the mainland.

The children are interesting to observe during the story. Even though they’re doing what comes natural to youngsters in this situation, they fiercely protect the honour of their mother. The youngsters have a wonderfully natural spirit and they outshine the adults in the film. Pasquale’s scheme to hide his mother from being taken away is a highlight.

The director Crialese shows much through the eyes of the two young boys and the story is intriguing as a type of romantic fable with the touch of realism. It may seem silly to some, but the one thing that is evident is the overwhelming sensuality of the island’s beautiful people. Valeria Golino is a talented Italian actress who has been able to make her mark in Hollywood. This performance is subtle and charming.

This dark tale of a vivacious but disturbed mother is very typical of some fine Italian films over the years. It’s weird with lovely visuals of a Sicilian island setting, yet finishing on a surprising note. Respiro is an accomplished piece of filmmaking.