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aka - Attessa, Lí
Italy 2015
Directed by
Piero Messina
99 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
3.5 stars

The Wait

Synopsis: A distraught woman, Anna (Juliette Binoche), returns from a funeral to her Sicilian villa. She is then surprised by an unexpected guest from Paris, Jeanne (Lou de Laâge), who is the girlfriend of Anna’s son, Giuseppe, who has invited Jeanne for Easter. But Giuseppe is not home, so Anna invites Jeanne to wait. Over a few days the women bond together, but Giuseppe’s continued absence becomes increasingly distressing for Jeanne.

Any film with Juliette Binoche is, in my books, worth watching and yet again with The Wait she doesn’t disappoint. Anna’s emotions swing from low to high and Binoche makes it all so very credible. Jeanne, young, light of spirit and seemingly innocent is a beautiful foil for the character of the initially depressed mother and as the film progresses there seems to be almost a reversal of these roles, as Anna becomes cheered by Jeanne’s presence and Jeanne becomes more concerned over Giuseppe’s failure to appear. The dynamic between the two women is amplified by the performance of Giorgio Colangeli as Pietro, the family servant who is an observer of the situation in the house, of the women, and of what he perceives as an increasingly untenable situation.

The producers of this film were also responsible for Paolo Sorrentino’s masterly Youth (2015) and The Great Beauty (2013), and director Messina was assistant directorr on the latter.  I believe fans of those films will find not dissimilar appeal in this one with its archetypically Italian attention to detail. The stylised feel of this film is gorgeous, with immaculately framed shots and a use of light and shadow that is truly impressive. The opening shot is in a church, as the camera rotates around a statue of Christ. This is the first of quite a bit of explicitly religious imagery, but even more notable is the way so many shots have a central illuminated image, say, a window, or a person in front of a window surrounded by shadows, giving the film a strong sense of spiritual yearning.

As a youngster I was often perplexed as to why, in many European films, the characters endured long silences between each other, and this interiority, so little a feature of English language film is certainly a feature here with what is going on in Anna’s mind never being made explicit.

The settings are glorious, from the very photogenic island of Sicily and Mt Etna, black with volcanic lava, to  the brightness of the bucolic villa and its surrounds and the vibrancy of the local village and the famous mosaics of Villa Romane de Casale. All these components provide constant visual interest and allow our minds to ponder their significance in terms of the plot. More pragmatically, the use of the mobile phone with each woman listening to Giuseppe’s messages on it is a smart plot device and helps build the tension as well as creating a greater insight for Anna as to the relationship her son had with this young woman.

The Wait is a delicate film and may not be to everyone’s taste. So little happens,that it is virtually an action high point when Jeanne brings two visiting lads to the villa for a meal. Nevertheless it is emotionally rich and a fine study of coping strategies in the face of life’s dramas.

 

 

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