SICILIAN GHOST STORY [London Film Festival]

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Based on the true story of a kidnapped son of a Mafia informer, Sicilian Ghost Story focuses more on a fictional character intent on finding the missing boy than on the victim of the kidnapping himself. 

Luna (Julia Jedlikowska) has more than a teenage crush on Giuseppe (Gaetano Fernandez). As is so often the way at this age, Luna is can’t-live-without-him in love with him. But Giuseppe is the son of a Mafia boss turned informer. Soon after Luna gives Giuseppe a letter declaring her love, the teenage boy disappears. Worse still, no one seems to care as much as Luna does. Giuseppe's parents send Luna away when she goes to his house looking for answers. Teachers in school ignore the fact Giuseppe's chair has been empty for so long. And the corrupt police want Luna's parents to get better control over her when she starts licking up a fuss. But when Luna begins having visions of where Giuseppe might be held, her fantasies contrast with the harsh reality of what Giuseppe is experiencing. 

Sicilian Ghost Story takes its time setting up the attraction of Luna and Giuseppe. Its pace is unhurried as it explores Luna's coming of age while occasionally crossing back to show the increasingly tragic circumstances of Giuseppe at the hands of his captors. It's not a wholly successful juxtaposition and the scenes of Giuseppe's entrapment feel like they are from a different, far grittier film. As Luna dyes her hair shocking blue and rebels against the society she is stuck in, Giuseppe’s story is slightly buried. But as Luna's rebellion slips into losing her grip on reality, Giuseppe's situation gets ever more desperate.

Sicilian Ghost Story flirts with cliché as Luna starts to experience the first throes of womanhood. A more disciplined cut of the film could focus more on her hunt for Giuseppe rather than her unruly streak under the watchful eye of her sinister mother. Time and again the film loses momentum due to its lack of focus. Even though Giuseppe is trapped in a single location, it is his scenes that always carry the most weight and that viewers may find themselves desperate to return to in order to check on the boy's welfare. This is, after all, his true story and Giuseppe should be more central to the plot than he is. 

Despite this, Julia Jedlikowska is an excellent lead and shines as the determined teen. While her tale does meander, it is her experiences of first love that give Sicilian Ghost Story its hypnotic and tender heartbeat. Aided by eerie cinematography that captures the woods and lakes in impressive wide angles, it's a frustrating, but ultimately upsetting watch. While the kidnapped Giuseppe's experience is short-changed, Luna's love for him shines through and just about manages to glue the film together. 

SICILIAN GHOST STORY / CERT: TBC / DIRECTORS & SCREENPLAY: FABIO GRASSADONIA, ANTONIO PIAZZA / STARRING: JULIA JEDLIKOWSKA, GAETANO FERNANDEZ , CORINNE MUSALLARI / RELEASE DATE: ALTITUDE ARE RELEASING IN CINEMAS SPRING 2018 



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