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FILMS / REVIEWS Italy

Review: 18 Presents

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- Francesco Amato directs an emotional, metaphysical adventure based on a true story involving Elisa Girotto, a mother who leaves her newborn daughter a present for each of her future birthdays

Review: 18 Presents
Benedetta Porcaroli (and Edoardo Leo and Vittoria Puccini in the background) in 18 Presents

When Elisa Girotto’s story broke in the press and online, it made worldwide news and attracted the attention of numerous foreign producers, because a beautiful and compelling tale such as this couldn’t not become a film. But it was to Francesco Amato (Let Yourself Go! [+see also:
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) that Elisa’s husband, Alessio Vicenzotto, finally decided to entrust his wife’s extraordinary tale; a woman who, while pregnant, discovered she was suffering from an incurable illness and, knowing that she wouldn’t get to see her little girl grow up, decided to accompany the latter through her childhood years by leaving behind a present for each of her future birthdays. This is how 18 Presents [+see also:
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was born, a film whose screenplay was written alongside Vicenzotto himself. It’s a heart-breaking drama, but also an extraordinary celebration of life, which reinvents a true story by imagining the two women meeting in some kind of third dimension, where the present and the past co-exist.

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Peggy Sue Got Married and Back to the Future are just two of the films immediately referenced in this work which takes us back to suburban America, in terms of its setting too, an area full of detached townhouses and backyards which our young teenage protagonist desperately wants to escape. In Anna’s mind (Benedetta Porcaroli, star of Netflix series Baby), her birthday is something of a trauma, firstly because it’s the day her mother died, but also because those presents left to her to unwrap each and every year have become something of a burden in her life. As such, on the day of her eighteenth birthday, she refuses to open the final package. Following a heated exchange with her father Alessio (Edoardo Leo, also touring cinemas in Ferzan Ozpetek’s The Fortune Goddess [+see also:
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), she storms out of the family home, only to be knocked down by a car. And this is where the switch takes place: Anna finds herself catapulted into 2001 and it’s none other than Elisa (Vittoria PucciniKiss Me Again [+see also:
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) who comes to her aid, on the very day that the latter discovers she’s seriously ill.

After her initial disorientation, Anna decides to enter into the home and the life of Elisa (the latter clearly oblivious to who this mysterious young woman actually is), so that she might finally get to know her mother and remain close to her until the day of the birth. Despite having very different characters, the two women form a close bond. Anna can at last communicate with her mother in a way that’s true to her adolescent nature, alternating moments of affection with angry outbursts and ultimately coming to terms with her mother’s absence; Elisa learns that you can only plan out your children’s lives so far and realises the importance of letting them stand on their own two feet. It all unfolds in an emotional crescendo which isn’t afraid of showing pain, nor the characters’ progressive desperation in the face of the sad, impending epilogue. But it nonetheless remains respectful towards the original story, steering clear of emotional manipulation and sentimentalism. The screenplay - penned by Amato, Vicenzotto, Massimo Gaudioso and Davide Lantieri - is solid and the feelings explored in this work are so universal, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see this story taken up abroad in a remake or two.

Produced by Lucky Red alongside 3 Marys Entertainment and Rai Cinema, 18 Presents is released in Italian cinemas on 2 January, courtesy of Vision Distribution.

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(Translated from Italian)

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