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On the Italian island of
Lampedusa, Grazia (Valeria Golino) has her role cut out for her, as the mother
of three children and the wife of a fisherman. But somehow she has never quite
fit in: always "too happy or too sad," confounding the expectations
of her neighbors and often disrupting the smooth routine of their community.
Her husband wants her to settle down, to get help; she just wants to follow her
Respiro is a "slice
of life" movie; as such, it is made up of a variety of pieces that add up
not to a plot, but to a picture of life on the island. While Grazia is more or
less the central character in the film, she's not its focus; in fact, we see a
lot of the film from the perspective of her older son, Pasquale. Respiro
does succeed quite well at depicting the lives of its characters and the nature
of their home. The lives of the island inhabitants revolve around the sea: the
men take the boats out to fish, the older boys help with unloading the catch,
the women and older girls work in the packing plant, and the young boys beg for
a few free fish to use as spending money.
It's a very self-contained
world, and indeed we get a sense of the isolation of the island, in that Grazia
fantasizes about Paris, but dreads the prospect of leaving home to go to Milan.
A pair of French tourists on their sailboat might as well be from another
world. It's also a world with a very rigid patriarchal social system, in which
men's and women's work and socializing are divided, and even the young boys
feel justified in bossing around women. But it's also very clear how much
family means to the characters: Grazia's struggle to "be herself" is
made more complicated by the fact that while her husband and children may not
understand her, they do love her very much and want the best for her... even if
she doesn't agree about what "the best" is.
Respiro is a slow-paced
film, alternately following Grazia and other members of her family in their
day-to-day lives. Some of the threads in Respiro can't really be said to
go anywhere in terms of plot; instead, the film tries to capture the feeling of
life on the island, with its small, tightly-knit community surrounded by stark
natural beauty. The film's ambiguous conclusion reinforces the idea that film
is a slice of life, not a narrative, and in fact Respiro certainly does
evoke a distinct sense of place and culture, aided by the haunting music and
sometimes almost surreal cinematography.
The 1.85:1 widescreen transfer
of Respiro is in fact anamorphic, though the case doesn't say so.
Overall we get very good image quality: the print is clean and colors look
great. Some edge enhancement appears, but it's not too noticeable. In scenes
with a mix of very bright and very dark elements, the contrast suffers a bit, but
the majority of the scenes are well-lit and have an excellent level of detail.
The English subtitles are
The Italian Dolby 5.1 track
offers a solid listening experience throughout the film. The dialogue is clear,
the soundtrack is clean, and the surround channels are used enough to create a
reasonable sense of immersion in the film.
The only real special feature
is a selection of trailers for other Sony Pictures Classics releases.
Respiro is another solid
film from Sony Pictures Classics, offering an interesting slice of life from a
tiny Mediterranean fishing community. The performances from both adults and
child actors are well done, and the film as a whole has a polished and
generally engaging style; it's recommended.