Saturday, August 24, 2013

I'm Not Scared (2003)

It is 1978, and Italian youth Michele (Giuseppe Cristiano) lives what initially seems like the freedom-filled, idyllic childhood we wish we all had. But this life has dark implications, which reveal themselves when Michele finds a boy his age chained up in a hole, to his horror and surprise.

   The boy is Felippo (Mattia Di Pierro,) a boy Michele's age (nine), who is obviously confused and scared, but very much alive. Initially scared off by Felippo's corpse-like appearance, Michele finds himself  coming back to bring Felippo water and food.

   Reasoning that someone in his Italian village is Felippo's captor, Michele initially chooses not to tell anyone about his discovery, but when the perpetrators fall onto Michele's lap, he must decide what to do next.

   "I'm Not Scared" is an aesthetically beautiful and consistently suspenseful thriller, despite some gaps in character logistics (why doesn't Michele go to the police) seemingly in place to take full advantage of the plot. Moreover, the actors are very strong, including the kids who dominate the picture.

   I wasn't terribly impressed with 'Felippo''s performance, but Giuseppe Cristiano was very good as the film's innocent young hero. Giulia Matturo is also strong as Michele's little sister Maria, a cutie (who with her oversized glasses and ponytail reminded me of a more attractive, more Italian Heather Mattarazzo in "Welcome to the Dollhouse.")

 Maria is in many ways a typical little sister, being a bother and trying to get her big brother into trouble, but Matturo gives a fine performance. Adriana Conserva is also good as Barbara, an obese and loud girl to which Michele proves his moral worth at the beginning by saving her from humiliation at the hands of a bullying 'friend.'

   The plot is exciting without being stupid (the curse of modern Hollywood) and oh man, that cinematography, oh man. The first scene in that golden wheat field made me feel like I was there smelling the wheat, having it stick to my clothes, and futilely trying to outrun the film's spry youngsters (except Barbara, who's around my size.)

   "I'm Not Scared" is a convincing movie with some adept symbolism concerning what it means to grow up. I would compare it to some of the modern classics like "Let the Right One In" and "Pan's Labyrinth", with a little "The Boy In the Striped Pajamas" for good measure. I definitely recommend it, and I for one think it's accessible for people who aren't a fan of slow-paced foreign art films.

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