(director/writer: Pierro Messina; screenwriters: Paolo Messina/Giacomo Bendotti/Ilaria Macchia/Andrea/ loosely based on the play “La vita che ti diedi” by Luigi Pirandello; cinematographer: Francesco Di Giacomo; editor: Paola Freddi; music: Alma Napolitano, Marco Mangari; cast: Juliette Binoche (Anna), Lou de Laage (Jeanne), Giorgio Colangeli (Pietro), Domenico Diele (Giorgio), Antonio Folletto (Paolo), Corinna Lo Castro (Rosa), Giovanni Anzaldo (Giuseppe); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Nicola Giuliano, Francesca Cima, Carolotta Calori; Oscilloscope Laboratories; 2015)=Italy/France-in Italian and French with English subtitles

It curiously examines the way not all people mourn their loss in similar ways.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The directorial debut of the Sicilian filmmaker Pierro Messina, who is also the co-writer (with Paolo Messina/Giacomo Bendotti/Ilaria Macchia/Andrea) of this grim drama that’s loosely based on the 1923 play “The Life I Gave You” by Luigi Pirandello. It curiously examines the way not all people mourn their loss in similar ways. The stylistic mood piece opens in a Sicilian village Catholic church, where Anna (Juliette Binoche) witnesses a devout old lady kiss the feet of a wooden statue of a crucified Christ. After a funeral the widowed Anna returns to her spacious villa and is surprised when a stranger from France, Jeanne (Lou de Laage), arrives to visit her son Giuseppe (Giovanni Anzaldo). She wonders why her boyfriend hasn’t called since she arrived, and also wonders why the house has its mirrors covered in black. Anna tells her it’s because her brother died. For some unknown reason Anna has decided not to tell the sweet Jeanne that it was her son Giuseppe who was the one who actually died. Instead she invites Jeanne to be a house guest and wait there until her son will arrive on Easter Sunday. During Jeanne’s stay, starting on Good Friday, the two women become drawn to each other and converse about many personal things. Anna’s servant (Giorgio Colangeli) is not pleased with the boss’s deception but reluctantly goes along with it. The dark mood is set by the Etna volcano in the background of the villa, the solemn church ceremony and by the gloomy interior of the villa. Death haunts us from beginning to end in this well-acted and intense religious drama, where the long stretches of silences can affect the viewer into either pausing to be more reflective of death or irked at how pretentious is the story. I ended up accepting it for what it wants to be, a provocative unquestioned look at how someone chooses to mourn a loved one by yearning for hope (religious belief) that their loved one can still be alive by some miracle.

REVIEWED ON 12/17/2016 GRADE: B-