Film Review: Ovunque Proteggimi (Wherever You Are)

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I had been planning on attending the Santa Barbara Film Festival, then work got busy and I only knew about which films were going to be screening at times the same day that they were screening so trying to take time off at the last minute was kind of difficult. However, out of the films that I was proposed to watch, I was curious about Bonifacio Angius’ film (maybe I was biased cause he’s a fellow Italian as myself), Ovunque Proteggimi (Wherever You Are for the English public) that was competing at the festival. I contacted the director and he graciously allowed me to stream the film since I couldn’t make the screenings.

I didn’t read the plot summary before plunging headfirst into the film, but I often find that going into a film blindly renders it more enjoyable as I have no expectations. The film is about Alessandro, an aging singer that primarily does gigs at local events with his childhood friend. One night, after a particularly failed gig due to the low audience outcome, his friend tells Alessandro that he’s no longer going to play backup for him and that he too, should think about quitting the local music scene. Depressed, Alessandro decides to hit up a club where he meets a group of young girls who want to buy coke. To show off, he assures them that he can get the money to buy the coke, he simply needs to stop by home first.

Once home, we learn that Alessandro still lives with his mother, and it’s her who he begs for the money. That’s when we learn that the protagonist has probably been doing this for years, abusing drugs and alcohol, and on this hapless night, his mother, fed up, decides to have him taken away to rehab. At rehab, Alessandro meets Francesca, a misfit like himself, whom he feels some affection towards, although he doesn’t readily admit to it at first. When the two of them are released on the same day, on a whim, he decides to accompany her to her house and that’s when Francesca learns that her parents had the child services take her son away.

This is when Alessandro begins to see the injustices that women who don’t follow societal norms befall to. Throughout the movie, we’re told by her parents and the child services that Francesca is a former junkie and “whore,” however, we never witness her using drugs, being promiscuous, nor crazy. The only time we see her lose her composure is when she is told that the child services has taken her son away (so in a way it’s understandable).

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Just like the audience feels sorry for Francesca and her plight, so does Alessandro who decides to help the woman reunite with her son. This journey allows us to understand that Alessandro deep down is a man with a good heart who can rise above his own flaws to do what he thinks is morally right, whether that is viewed right by society.

Throughout the movie, we can’t help but cheer for these two unlucky lost souls who clearly mean nothing to the people closest to them. This film isn’t overly dramatic, but it explores some heavy themes such as mental health stigma, motherhood, and the cost of following your dreams. The two leads Alessandro (played by Alessandro Gazale) and Francesca (played by Francesca Niedda) have quiet chemistry and they play their characters in such a broken, vulnerable manner that they manage to steer clear of any tropes or cliches. These characters feel real and because of that, we’re invested in their story, and we want to see them have a happy ending.

Ovunque Proteggimi is a film that will seize your heart and squeeze it ruthlessly, leaving you brutally breathless. Watch this if you want to experience a film that is full of heart and humanity. Hats off to Bonifacio Angius for directing a film that gives voices to those in society who usually aren’t allowed to have one.

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Throwback Thursday: Angel Heart

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I’ve decided to start a new series, Throwback Thursday. So one Thursday a month I’m going to share my experience of either rewatching, rereading, or relistening something that I adored back when I was a youngster (think between the ages of 6-18) and see if it stands the test of time. So for my first Throwback, I decided to rewatch the 1987 horror film, Angel Heart.

When I told a friend of mine that I saw this movie at six he was appalled (what can I say? My parents were horror fans who knew I was one and watching movies kept hyper me occupied, so there’s that).

So the premise of Angel Heart is that a private detective called Harry Angel, has a new case at hand, to find a man called Johnny Favourite. Except things aren’t quite that simple, and Johnny doesn’t want to be found. Let’s just say that, amongst the period detail and beautiful scenery, it all gets really, really nasty fast.

All I could remember about the movie in question was that it dealt with voodoo, Robert DeNiro was in it, (I also recalled another detail but can’t reveal it as it’s *spoilers*), and that this was one of those movies where Mickey Rourke was hot.

Upon viewing the movie I was like, HOLY SHIT this movie is truly very twisted and no wonder people are shocked I saw this at the tender age of six. This movie has one hell of a twist back in the day before twist endings were a thing, so it was very innovative in that way. The mystery was captivating and the gore factor was high, so if you’re into that, you’re gonna love it (and yeah I’m a creep and love that).

The movie has Angel (Mickey Rourke) traveling from Brooklyn to New Orleans in search of the ever elusive Johnny Favourite (that Robert DeNiro’s character wants to find because he’s got a score to settle with him), only that everyone that knew Johnny begins to die in horrible ways and Angel is made to look like the culprit of those murders when he is not. So will he be able to find Johnny before he gets framed for murder? And will the voodoo queen Epiphany ( Played by a pre-Lenny Kravitz & Jason Momoa, wide-eyed Lisa Bonet) help Angel in his endeavor to find Johnny or is she simply going to bring his downfall? The stakes are high and the mystery is very much intriguing.

I really enjoyed my this movie and think that six years old me had impeccable taste for being so young (and probably was a teeny bit twisted).

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Film Review: The Shape of Water

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Anyone who knows me well, knows that I’m a sucker for fairy-tales (the Grimm variety or Oscar Wilde, not Disney) and impossible loves (think Edward Scissorhands and Kim), so of course I’d fall in love with Guillermo Del Toro’s lush fairy-tale of a love story, The Shape of Water.

The movie opens with the audience getting to meet Elisa (Sally Hawkins), a mute woman who lives in a tiny apartment alone above a theatre house, next door to the lonely artist Giles (Richard Jenkins). Due to working as a cleaning lady for a government laboratory in Baltimore, Elisa’s “day” begins at night, working the so-called “graveyard shift” with co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer).

Most of her days are the same, until one night a new test subject is brought into the lab, a revered River God from South America dubbed the “Amphibian Man” (Doug Jones) for being a cross between a man and sea creature. Elisa feels compassion for the Amphibian Man and is saddened that the creature’s handler Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) has no interest in getting to know the creature and instead, tortures it daily without mercy

Elisa feels drawn to the Amphibian Man because, like her, he is different. She also feels compelled to him because they’re both lonely, invisible beings to society, and decides to initiate a friendship with the creature through egg lunches and sharing of jazz music. But when learns that the government is only interested in killing the Amphibian Man rather than trying to learn more about him, she’s overcome with grief and hatches a plan to get him out of the heavily surveyed government lab with the help of Giles and Zelda.

The beauty of the film is that it brought together four characters that represented “invisible” and alienated people. Elisa is invisible for being mute, Zelda is invisible for being a woman of color in 1962, Giles is invisible for being a gay starving artist, and the Amphibian Man is invisible because he isn’t even deemed as human. All four characters suffer from loneliness and are aching for some kind of human contact that will make them feel alive again and complete. Before meeting the Amphibian Man, Elisa was merely existing, but once her feelings for him begin to blossom and are reciprocated, that’s when she begins to truly live.

Del Toro’s visually stunning movie ignited the bleak atmosphere of the Cold War and cruelty with the spark of love and how colourful everything begins to be when one is in love. He also masterfully reminded us that sometimes it’s the lesser important people who become the heroes of the story when they feel they have a purpose.

The Shape of Water is a touching love story of how two very radically different people (they’re not even the same species!) are brought together and how their love overcomes all the obstacles. This movie is truly a celebration of the Latin quote, Amor vincit omnia (Love conquers all). And in today’s complacent, superficial modern society where everything is disposable, even love, it’s refreshing to be reminded that some things are worth fighting for.

By: Azzurra Nox

(Please don’t let me be) Misunderstood: Movie Review

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Incompresa debuted at Cannes in 2014 and it’s Asia Argento’s third directorial effort. The movie is loosely based on Argento’s own childhood, particularly the time frame when her parents, actress Daria Nicolodi and master of horror director, Dario Argento, split up after ten years of being together. In the movie, the protagonist Aria (Argento’s real name) played by a remarkable Giulia Salerno, gets shuffled between her concert pianist mother (played by a moody Charlotte Gainsbourg and styled to resemble Nicolodi) and international movie star father (played by Italy’s heartthrob Gabriel Garko).

The movie opens with an instrumental by Brian Molko as Aria writes in her diary. Fun fact: for those of us who have read Asia Argento’s book I Love You Kirk (published back in 1999 and out of print now), will readily recognize the opening sequence is an excerpt from Argento’s very own childhood diary.

One of the first scenes in the movie depicts Aria getting hit hard by her mother to the point of spilling blood. Moments later though, her mother washes her bloodied lip and tells her, “Don’t play the victim card.” The following morning, after a violent fight with her spouse, Aria’s mother is washing the blood from her hair and tells her, “Look at what your father did to me. He’s a monster,” just as Aria touches her bruised lip, reminding her of her mother’s violent act.

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The fact that Aria comes from an affluent family, would usually make the audience unsympathetic towards her. But since she’s so clearly invisible in her family, just as she is in school, the protagonist becomes very relatable and likable. Nothing in Aria’s life ever goes right. At school she is taunted, her crush doesn’t like her, her mother seems bothered by her presence readily shipping her off to her dad, while her dad is just as neglectful and ordering her to go back to her mother whenever she upsets him or his daughter Lucrezia, and the only person who seems to care about her is her best friend Angelica (who later betrays her too).

The movie is bittersweet and dark, but the colour palette used in the scenes is vibrant and hopeful. The soundtrack is superb, as are the outlandish outfits worn by Aria throughout the movie. Every scene pulls at your heartstrings, bringing the audience closer to the grand finale. And like any tragic movie, for any moment of happiness, there are four scenes of sorrow. My favourite scene in the movie is the epic party scene that soon shifts from exciting and fun, to shame and disaster. After the ultimate betrayal (that’s almost reminiscent of Carrie’s Prom scene, sans the pig’s blood, but with the same amount of embarrassment and hurt), the audience doesn’t even bat an eye when Aria ultimately does the most horrific of gestures. Because we’re kind of expecting things to go <I>that</I> bad. We can understand her motives. We actually feel sorry that a nine-year-old girl has to feel so unloved. This movie is almost a cautionary tale for parents to be more attentive to their kids before it’s too late. Because the end result could be tragic, as it was in the movie, or they could just grow up to become moody artists who’ll capture your wrongdoings in a movie for the whole world to see.

But like Aria says at the end, “I didn’t tell you this so that you could feel sorry for me. I shared this with you, so that maybe if you meet me, you’ll be nicer.” This certainly has left me wanting to give Asia a hug albeit that may be a bit too sappy so maybe just a punk salute will do, “Revolution, baby!”

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This movie is raw, intense, and just overall beautiful. It’s the spawn of Charles Baudelaire and Sylvia Plath in images. Don’t miss it. Because once you watch it, you’ll be left enthralled and disarmed.

Incompresa (Misunderstood) is currently available on Netflix, Amazon, Itunes, and Youtube.

By: Azzurra Nox