- Alessandro Grande's feature debut, about the power of guilt and the absence of an effective role-model-father, is an interesting work for its premise but two-dimensional in practice
A father who’s incapable of assuming his responsibilities and a daughter who subsequently feels lost at sea, caught in the throes of a crisis, are at the heart of Alessandro Grande’s first feature film Regina, the only Italian title to be presented in competition at the 38th Torino Film Festival, which this year unspooled online. The Catanzaro director (who won a 2018 David di Donatello award for his short work Bismillah) has set his dual coming-of-age drama in a cold, grey and unfamiliar version of Calabria where, following a tragic event, both the young protagonist and her mediocre father sink into the depths of hell before emerging from their nightmare, changed.
Everything’s fine between 15-year-old Regina (Ginevra Francesconi) and her father Luigi (Francesco Montanari), so long as they’re joking, laughing, diving into pools and taking trips to the lake. A great sense of mutual understanding seems to reign between this young woman and her parent-“friend”, not least because there’s only the two of them left in their family: her mother died sometime earlier and, once a session bassist in Rome, Luigi now finds himself eking out a living among Calabria’s Sila mountains, cleaning a swimming pool in a big hotel and staking all his bets on a possible career for his daughter as a singer-songwriter - one who, according to some, “could do well on a talent show”. For all his affection, there seems to be something lacking in this father who pilfers bottles of beer while on duty and hides cases of premium champagne in the boot of his car.
Roughly ten minutes into the film, having discovered the joys of rainbow trout fishing in Calabria, a tragic incident unfolds as Regina and her father return to shore in their little boat following a fishing trip on the lake: they hit a skin diver who’s swimming where he shouldn’t be. But, as it turns out, given that boats aren’t allowed, they shouldn’t be there either. In the space of a few seconds, the decision is made (by Luigi): they should run. What follows this shocking, fatal event is a crescendo of anxiety and guilty feelings, which winds itself around the teen in particular, while her father endeavours to put the whole thing behind him and refuses to face reality. The net appears to tighten around Regina and her father - it would still be easy for the pair to get away with it, but their conscience eats away at them, with devastating results.
The subject-matter explored here is interesting as well as current: the disappearance of the father figure in the sense of a role model, at a time when parents are often proving themselves to be more immature than their children. The viewer feels a distinct sense of unease at how wrong and misguided the father’s decision is, and feels sorry for this lost little girl, left alone in her agonies. But it was perhaps a mistake to place too much, if not sole focus on this aspect of the film, which runs the risk of reducing its characters to two-dimensional figures: Regina in her distress and Luigi in his refusal to see. Amidst verdant mountains and pristine lakes, the director - who wrote the screenplay with Mariano Di Nardo – does allude to the existence of a criminal underworld in the area (dedicated, in this instance, to the illegal trade of archaeological artifacts), but this is an element he purposefully relegates to the background. Even Regina’s ambition to become a singer seems somewhat disconnected from the rest of the film: it seems only to have been included to illustrate Regina’s angst levels, which are so high she abandons her passions, and to treat us to a few musical moments which are set apart by the protagonist’s intense albeit imperfect style of singing, which isn’t entirely unwelcome.
(Translated from Italian)
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