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Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look42.86%
Average: 28.57%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 28.57%

3 reviews, 3 user ratings

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by Brian McKay

"Beautiful, but listless"
3 stars

RESPIRO, the tale of a quaint Italian coastal fishing village (and in particular one of the families who inhabits it), is visually a beautiful film. After all, it’s hard to go completely wrong with its sun-kissed climes, crystal-clear beaches, and azure skies, as its perfectly bronzed denizens go about the daily business of living. However, you may notice after the first half hour or so that something is missing – like a plot.

Grazia (Valeria Golina) is a housewife with a fisherman husband and three children. The two younger boys spend their days running around barely clothed as they forage for shellfish along the beach and get into “fights” with a rival “gang” which usually involve the losers being stripped and sent home naked. In fact, there is so much of this “young boys getting stripped naked” routine at times, that it makes one wonder if this film might end up on a “recommended viewing” list in the NAMBLA newsletter. Meanwhile, the eldest daughter, a beautiful teenager who looks like an Italian Neve Campbell and has fully budded into womanhood, pursues a relationship with a fumbling young police officer who seems to be the village Barney Fife. Unlike her younger brothers, she keeps most of her clothes on.

Meanwhile, Grazia appears to be slowly losing her mind – or at least that’s what the locals think. But is she really going soft in the head, or is she merely an eccentric free spirit who is perhaps a bit too free for the likes of the provincials? Though slightly odd, her behavior is pretty harmless – until she takes pity on a group of stray and rabid dogs that have been locked up in a pen to await execution, and sets them free. After they run wild through the village streets, prompting the locals to take to the rooftops with shotguns, her husband and extended family decide it’s time to send her away to see a specialist in Milan.

Grazia refuses to leave her island home, and responds by fleeing and hiding out from her husband and the villagers, aided by her older son. What follows is a bunch of tedious looking around for her before the film mercifully wraps up at the ninety minute mark. Although the film’s exotic locales are mesmerizing, and the acting is uniformly quite good, it goes nowhere slowly. Valeria Golino, who briefly captured the attention of Western audiences in such films as Hot Shots and Rain Man before dropping off of the radar and ending up back on native soil, still looks fantastic (even more so during a scene where she indulges in a topless romp on the beach). But good acting and pretty scenery alone cannot save a film that starts to feel as aimless as the village’s languid existence, one which consists of fishing, going to the beach, and riding around on Vespa scooters all day long. After a while, it feels less like a film and more like a ninety minute commercial for the Mediterranean Department of Tourism.

The film’s title of RESPIRO (“breathe”) sums things up perfectly. Ultimately, all this film does is draw breath, without providing much, if any, of an emotional chord to strike resonance with. Perhaps some mouth-to-mouth from a better script might have breathed a bit more life into it.

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originally posted: 04/29/03 03:50:50
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 San Francisco Film Festival. For more in the 2003 San Francisco Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

6/09/03 Joe Rengstorf Beautiful Visually, and an interesting look at the struggles of everyday life 4 stars
5/27/03 Zaki Hi, I'm Zaki, and Valeria Golino is the SHIT! 4 stars
5/12/03 mr. Pink Better than those 'exotic foreign' films, that pass for 'art' these days. Golino's terrific 4 stars
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  23-May-2003 (PG-13)



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