To Chiara (‘A Chiara’)

DRAMA; 2hr 1min (Italian with subtitles)

STARRING: Swamy Rotolo, Claudio Rotolo, Carmela Fumo

Girl, disenchanted: Swamy Rotolo

Eighteen-year-old Giulia Guerrasio (Grecia Rotolo), her 15-year-old sister, Chiara (Swamy Rotolo), and their bambina, Giorgia (Giorgia Rotolo), are actual sisters — and untrained actors — in this atmospheric third entry of writer-director Jonas Carpignano’s Calabrian trilogy, and their closeness rings loud and boisterously clear as they roughhouse before Giula’s birthday party. Keeping the loving vibe alive, everybody has a blast on the rowdy, splashy night, with the minor caveat of the girls’ father, Claudio (Claudio Rotolo — ciao, Papa!), who bails at the suggestion of a toast but steps up later with a celebratory video.


Post-party is a horse of a different colour: the sunny mood snaps to black like the flicking of a switch when Claudio’s parked car bursts into flames, the man himself disappears, the ominous score ramps up and Chiara learns from the internet that her father is on the run, wanted by the police as a Mafioso drug dealer.


Lensed from Chiara’s bewildered perspective by cinematographer Tim Curtin’s busy-bee camera, the discovery of Claudio’s true identity and the ramifications that follow unfold with a nightmarish sense of heaviness. On the one hand, Chiara’s life continues as before. On the other, that life can never again be as she knew it. Stonewalled by Giulia and their mother, Carmela (Fumo), Chiara persists in searching for her father, despite the danger that entails. The situation is far bigger than she is, of course, and the choice she must eventually make is overwhelming. But you have to give it up for her fearlessness, and to born to it Swamy Rotolo for the inner strength and self-possession of a woman well beyond her years.