Film & TV

ST.ALi Italian Film Festival: Padrenostro

A young boy witnesses his own father being gunned down, but tries to heal with the help of an enigmatic friend.

Director Claudio Noce had an unusual childhood: his father, Rome’s then Deputy Chief of Police, was targeted by ultra-left wing extremists during the 1970s. Not surprisingly, this had a deep effect on the young Claudio, and it is only now, with his first feature since 2014 (and only his second), that he is able to dive into this traumatic childhood.

Although fundamentally autobiographical, Padrenostro is fictional-almost to the point of the fantastical. Young Valerio witnesses the near-fatal shooting of his father. While he is trying to make sense of these events, he is befriended by a slightly older and more worldly boy, Christian. The action moves out of Rome to the countryside of Calabria, as the family spend summer with Valerio’s grandparents.

Noce ensures we see everything through the child’s eyes. We experience the same confusion about what is going on; the same fear; the same frustration at the lack of information. To a great extent this narrative stance works, but there are times when the audience needs to be slightly more informed than the protagonist. The figure of Christian teeters on the mystical. Is he merely a figment of Valerio’s imagination? Seemingly not. There are times when the beautiful ambivalence that Noce was clearly aiming for becomes an exercise in frustration.

Mattia Garaci shines as the angelic Valerio. Francesco Gheghi embodies a street-wise yet vulnerable Christian. Their on-screen chemistry anchors the work, allowing the rest of the ensemble to orbit that relationship. Pierfrancesco Favino puts in a magnificent performance as the father, Alfonso, alongside the wonderful Barbara Ronchi as mother Gina.

Padrenostro is ambitious, quirky, and at times messy and obscure. But it remains steadfastly humane. Despite its occasional slip-ups, this is ultimately a masterful piece of film-making. Like many of the works of fellow Italian Elena Ferrante, it is a heart-rending snapshot of the adult world, seen through the eyes of a child.

Noce’s aim is true.

Padrenostro screens as part of the ST. ALi Italian Film Festival at Palace Nova Eastend and Prospect from October 20th.

Click here to book tickets.

Beautiful and brilliant 4 stars

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