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To Chiara – movie revew

To Chiara is the brainchild of Jonas Carpignano and the third in his Calabrian trilogy. But you don’t need to have seen the other two to appreciate this latest instalment.

We are in Gioia Tuara in Southern Italy with the Guerrasio clan. Chiara (Swamy Rotolo), 15, is the middle child of a close-knit family. Family and friends gather for sister Giulia’s (Grecia Rotolo) 18th birthday party. But something is going on with their father, Claudio (Claudio Rotolo), something involving furtive conversations, which Chiara can’t but help notice. And then Chiara witnesses a seriously sinister incident – Claudio’s car is blown up and he disappears. When Chiara pleads with her mother Carmela (Carmela Fumo) and older sister to tell her what’s going on, they speak in riddles. So, Chiara decides to investigate for herself, starting by quizzing her cousin, who is equally vague.

News reports have pinpointed Claudio as a Mafia drug dealer and strongman. Chiara wants to know where her father is and exactly what he’s been up to. The authorities have one way of dealing with the situation, while Chiara has another. Her fate will be determined by a meeting where the truth is revealed.

To Chiara is a slow burn film. It takes a long time to ignite. More than half an hour is spent setting the scene, establishing Chiara’s day-to-day life. There isn’t a great deal to get excited about until Claudio’s car explodes. Carpignano appears to revel in the mystery, which caused me to scratch my head and ask “what sort of movie am I seeing?”

Swamy Rotolo impresses as the film’s protagonist – self-assured and dogmatic, a natural. Around her, the director seems to have cast her entire extended family. These are non-professional actors who don’t have pretence about them.

Just where the film is headed remains elusive until very late in the piece. While To Chiara won’t be to everyone’s taste, it’s a decidedly different take on a Mafia family.

Alex First

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