From theatre to screen, this Italian tale of five sisters is emotionally vacant in its treatment of grief over time.
Dir. Emma Dante
2020 | Italy | Drama | 94 mins | Italian
Not rated – likely to be M18 for some nudity, coarse language and mature theme
Cast: Alissa Maria Orlando, Susanna Piraino, Anita Pomario
Plot: Maria, Pinuccia, Lia, Katia and Antonella are five sisters who live in an apartment in Palermo. When one of them accidentally dies, the sisters’ relationships are turned upside down for the rest of their lives.
Awards: Won Pasinetti Award – Best Film & Best Actress; Nom. for Golden Lion (Venice)
International Sales: Charades
Subject Matter: Moderate – Family, Grief, Time
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
I’m sure the play is much better as this cinematic adaptation of Emma Dante’s text by Dante herself is one of the most disappointing efforts to emerge from the Venice Film Festival this year.
A lacklustre attempt at dealing with trauma and the impact of grief over time, The Macaluso Sisters is emotionally vacant and doesn’t have anything meaningful to say about the subject.
As such, it is hard to be compelled by the narrative which centres on five sisters who live together, but face a tragedy when one of them dies in a freak accident on a day out at the beach. Their parents seem to be missing, probably dead, so most of the time, the sisters have only themselves to rely on.
Love-hate relationships amongst them are developed early on and is a recurring ‘motif’ through the course of the film, which is split into three ‘acts’—when they are young, middle-aged, and very old.
The youth segment is the strongest, with its vibrant cinematography and energy, and if it had been a short film, it would have been a very good one. The subsequent two segments are insipid and I don’t think it is inaccurate to describe them as an hour-long wallowing in self-pity.
Seeing the cast tear up as they remember their guilt and regrets doesn’t automatically mean that we the audience will resonate with their feelings—this might work well abstractly for theatre, but there is no shortcut for the cinematic expression of grief.