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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Respiro (2002)

"No one's asked about me?"
- Grazia (Valeria Golino)

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: December 30, 2003

Stars: Valeria Golino
Other Stars: Vincenzo Amato, Veronica D'Agostino, Filippo Pucillo, Avy Marciano
Director: Emanuele Crialese

MPAA Rating: R for nudity and thematic elements
Run Time: 01h:35m:17s
Release Date: October 21, 2003
UPC: 043396002142
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

"Because my mother was crazy." That all-purpose excuse gets something of a workout here, but one of the many admirable things about Respiro is that it wisely avoids being a Problem Movie—that is, it's about a lot more than whether or not Mom should be packed off, Blanche Du Bois style, to someplace...special. Emmanuele Crialese's film is a well-crafted contemporary story about a family in a Sicilian fishing village, and not only in that respect is it reminiscent of Visconti's great early work, La Terra trema; Respiro may not be on that level—few movies are—but it's got many virtues nonetheless.

Valeria Golino plays Grazia, the central figure—she's the mother of three, the wife of a fisherman, and she's a little unstable. There's no formal diagnosis, but we're clearly in the realm of manic-depressive illness—as another character says of Grazia, "Either she is too happy or too sad." Her older son, Pasquale, is moving from adolescence to adulthood, and the conflicted feelings about his mother are palpable—there's almost a sexual charge between them, as she asserts her womanly authority, and he looks for his own place in the world. Grazia's younger boy, Filippo, worships and is deeply protective of his mother; and Filippo and Pasquale's sister, Marinella, is old enough to attract the attention of the young men in town, but young enough only to walk down the street with them. (The impact of Grazia on her children may put you in mind of Mary Karr's wonderful memoir of her own mother, The Liar's Club.)

Golino's performance is in many ways the motor of the movie—she was arm candy for Tom Cruise in Rain Man, but she gets a chance to demonstrate more ability here, especially in that strange and wonderful place that Grazia inhabits, full of lunacy and carnality and tenderness. Her husband, Pietro, has to do a good amount of caretaking (that is, when he's not out on the sea), but there's also a strong sexual bond between them, and if their kids are a little embarrassed about it, they sure aren't. The film takes some time with each of the characters—Marinella starts an uneasy romance with a new policeman, and Pasquale's transformative experience comes when Grazia runs away, and the son helps her to hide out, the special secret between them, causing nothing but grief and anxiety for everybody else. It's not a neatly packaged story, but it is heartfelt.

Another smart lesson that Crialese cribbed from Visconti is in giving his movie a keen sense of place. We never feel like we're watching a travelogue, but the Sicilian seascapes can be breathtaking; and the workings of a fishing village are well integrated into the scenes, providing visual interest and information without grinding the narrative to a halt. The other actors don't seem quite as accomplished as Golino—it's too bad that Vincenzo Amato doesn't get more to do as Pietro, and as Grazia's youngest, Filippo Pucillo is allowed to indulge in some unappealing overacting. The cumulative effect of the movie may not be tremendous, but it is full of some lovely images, like the pure joy that the village children take in a new toy train, or the many underwater shots that are imbued with poetry and grace. Some of them are rougher, too—in a misguided bit of revenge, Grazia frees the wild dogs penned just out of town, and the animals have to be shot and killed. All we see are the women of the village hosing down the streets, getting rid of the blood—it's the kind of evocative and understated bit of storytelling that this movie does so well.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The captivating cinematography is reasonably well presented on this disc—the nuances of the seashore light are captured extraordinarily well. Only the occasional bit of dirt and debris, introduced in the transfer to DVD, detract from the visual presentation.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: A good clean transfer, marred only by a bit too much ambient noise and occasional hissing.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Cuckoo, Man Without a Past
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: AGI Media Packaging
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Only a trio of trailers and a link to the official Sony website for the film.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

A visually delightful movie with some startling images and a deep empathy for its characters and their dilemmas.


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