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Wonder Reel: Observing the Feminine Universe, Now and Then


By Roger Costa


Young girl Lucia is right on the edge between her stolen childhood and the forced process of becoming an adult. As her parents migrate to France looking for work, she is left behind with the care of her strict grandmother on the Sicilian coast. Dealing with the sense of abandon on her own, and the hurtful hidden family traumas surrounding her, Lucia is struggling to accept adulthood as all her possible role-models are morally falling apart: her grandmother (who is known in the village as the only one who can dress the dead) mysteriously despises her own sister and her family, prohibiting Lucia of any contact with them; her cousin is having an affair with a married man and asks her for a secret vow, forming a tender “sisterly” connection; she becomes intolerant to her grandmother’s attitude towards her relatives, and finds her way out to meet them and learn of their traumatic past. Despite all her attempts to adapt to the new village, and to her grandmother’s controlling rules, she is longing for her parents’ return, for changes, for a total makeover. Beautifully observed and executed, this 60’s-set coming-of-age drama has a unique sensitive tone influenced by the honest aspects of neorealism. Winner of the Italian Golden Globes for Best First Feature, Paolo Licata’s debut is a lyrical meditation on the young feminine universe, its innocence, discoveries and challenges. Impressively shot with bright views on the astonishing landscape and atmospheric interiors, Licata delicately addresses women’s repression, immigration, prejudice and faith seen through Lucia’s experiences, while paving the way for a redemptive climax depicting the importance of forgiveness.

(Corinth Films. 10/30. In Virtual Cinemas. Go to for details.)


A taut, seductive and ambiguous thriller/drama, director Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s adaptation of his Oscar-nominated short of the same title delivers one of this year’s most striking female performances. Winner of the Horizon Award for Best Actress at Venice, Marta Nieto dominates the screen with her complex persona, a woman who lives under the shadow of her missing son. In the incredibly tense and claustrophobic one-shot opening sequence, Elena arrives at her Madrid-home with her mother discussing topics of modern relationship and her lack of finding someone to date; the phone rings, and on the other side there’s her 6-year-old son who had been left alone on an unknown French beach after his father mysteriously disappeared. Trying to figure out a way to rescue her son, Elena hits the road, aware of the risks and dangers her son is possibly experiencing, as he mentions the presence of one single very touchy man on the desert beach. Sorogoyen cuts the action ahead, 10 years later, where Elena works at a touristic beach in France, still searching for her son on her own. The director demonstrates brilliant balance and coordination with the material, abruptly cutting the chilling moment, leaving the suspense in the air, and switching the tone to a more dramatic vision. Elena shares her apartment with a boyfriend and works hard as a waitress; When she meets Jean (a breakthrough performance by Jules Porier), a teenager who reminds her of her son, she becomes obsessed with the kid, developing a strangely affecting and ambiguous relationship with him. As she fuels her idea of finally finding her son, she sees on him the complement of healing, while on the other hand, he, who’s dealing with hormones and the excitement of the tourist season, sees her differently becoming involved and attracted to her, developing other form of obsession. At this point, Sorogoyen creates a controversial situation, bringing attention to Jean’s parents’ reactions, as a core of responding to their relationship, as well as his young friends’, her supportive boyfriend’s and ultimately, the working environment and community. The film clearly understands both sides, her desperate need of finding her son, and the kid’s inevitable precocious attraction. Stunningly and frenetically shot with widely open angles on the sea, sands, hangouts and intimate moments, the camera also fully explores the presence-power of actress Nieto, as she ravishes the screen, in an Oscar-caliber performance marked by grieving, silence and unexpected turns. Intense and sensitive at equal levels, Sorogoyen scored a sobering and engrossing drama.

(Strand Releasing. 10/30. Angelika Theater Virtual Cinema NYC and others. Go to for details.)


⭐NewFest NYC is wrapping up its 2020 edition this week, where accomplished Israeli filmmaker Eytan Fox’s delicate and timely SUBLET was shown to great acclaim before moving on to open the Toronto Jewish Film Festival. Starring John Benjamin Hickey as a writer exploring Tel-Aviv, and Niv Nissim as his handsome tour guide, the film is a deeply moving and vibrant look at generational conflicts. Greenwich Entertainment is set to open the film next year.

⭐Oscar buzzed UNCLE FRANK, directed by Alan Ball also screened at NewFest, bringing outstanding performances from the entire cast, but especially Paul Bettany, as the closeted gay protagonist who fights prejudice and family conventions in 1973’s South Carolina. He certainly deserves Award attention, as the uplifting and crowd-pleasing drama is set to hit theaters and streaming service via Amazon Studios next month.

⭐Playing next week at both Scottsdale International Film Festival and St. Louis International Film Festival, Writers-Directors Stéphanie Chuat and Véronique Reymond’s Oscar front-runner for Best International Film, MY LITTLE SISTER is an emotionally-charged drama centered on the devotion of a sister to her twin brother who’s fighting for his life against leukemia. The Swiss entry stars European diva Nina Hoss in another tour-de-force performance, and versatile award-winning actor Lars Eidinger as her brother. The much awaited film is slated to open in January via Film Movement, and should as well promote Hoss’s performance in the Best Actress field.

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